Screening And Removal Of Moles (Nevi)

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Screening And Removal Of Moles (Nevi)

Moles are frequently pink or brown in color with an oval or round shape...


Moles are frequently pink or brown in color with an oval or round shape, and they can be congenital or acquired. However, the underlying cause for the molecular change triggering formation of moles that can be seen in every part of the body remains unclear.

Most moles are benign, but there are also others that can become cancerous which is referred to as ‘melanoma’. Persons with light skin and eye color, red or blonde hair, who get sunburned easily or whose skin is hard to tan, who are prone to freckles, are subject to long-term or intermittent sun exposure, have abnormal (atypical) looking (dysplastic) nevi, have multiple congenital moles or a family history of melanoma are at higher risk to develop skin cancer.

A close eye should be kept on any change in the color, shape or size of moles. A dermatologist must be consulted as soon as possible if the edges of a mole are large and irregular, if there is any change in color or size, or if there are any symptoms such as burning, itching, pain or bleeding. Also, it is important that persons with moles large in size and number or with a family history of melanoma consult a specialist. UV rays can cause the moles to increase in number and become cancerous. Therefore, high SPF sunscreens should be used in summer and winter.

‘Melanoma’ is a type of skin cancer with an ever-increasing incidence that has the potential to spread so fast that it can be life-threatening, while mole screening is of utmost significance for early diagnosis of the disease.

One of the biggest misconceptions about moles in society is that moles will become cancerous when removed. Their removal does not cause moles to grow into a cancer, and it is strongly advised to get any moles removed that your doctor may find risky.

Moles can also be removed when not wanted for aesthetic reasons. However, removal should be done by a plastic surgeon.

Other factors that can cause changes in moles along with excessive sun exposure include use of tanning beds and excessive and improper use of bad quality cosmetic products. People are strongly advised not to tear away or cut off their moles as this can also lead to various structural changes in moles.

Skin tags are some sort of skin growths connected to the skin, and they neither pose any harm to the person nor have any likelihood to become cancerous. Skin tags are more common in areas like the neck or armpits, and there can be an increase in skin tags with aging, weight gain and pregnancy. Skin tags can be removed for aesthetic reasons or if they get traumatized when they pull or rub on clothes or accessories.

An instrument called digital dermoscope is used to screen moles. This instrument magnifies the moles 20 to 40 times, takes their dermoscopic image which then can be saved on the computer. Thus, any suspicious alteration in moles can be detected easily by comparing the images with those taken in the next examination. Digital dermoscopy makes a mathematical calculation of suspicious changes in moles to score a person’s risk to develop melanoma, thus facilitating proper screening and treatment. While the chance of diagnosing early-stage melanoma with the naked eye is about 60 percent, it is as high as 90 percent with digital dermoscopic monitoring.

30% of “Malignant Melanoma” lesions - a cancer type that exhibits one of fastest increasing rates of prevalence among all cancers worldwide - develop on a mole, whereas the remaining 70% develop on normal skin. “Malignant Melanoma” can be treated effectively when diagnosed at an early stage but has the potential to quickly spread to regional lymph nodes and then to the whole body if not diagnosed early, thus impeding the chance of treatment.

All persons are advised to check out their moles monthly. Any asymmetry, edge irregularities, color change (moles made up of more than one color), pronounced growth, inflammatory reaction or bleeding they may notice could be a possible sign of skin cancer.

Patients can see these changes on the screen together with their doctor and compare them to the previous findings. Every person should get their moles screened as soon as they take notice of a suspicious change, so as to increase their chance for early diagnosis against the risk of melanoma.

Mole removal surgery is done with local anesthesia, which helps the patient to not feel any pain or ache during the procedure. Small syringes are used to apply the anesthesia around and under the mole. Removal should be followed by a pathological examination of the excised tissue.

The procedure takes about 5 to 10 minutes. The incision is closed with sutures after surgery. The operation will leave very little scarring if done properly. Scars are usually a few millimeters larger than the mole itself. Scares become even more indistinct as they mature over the time. The wound is dressed and closed up after the procedure. Patients do not have to be kept under postoperative monitoring but can immediately resume their social and business life. Mole removal is a quite safe procedure. Mild rash or itching sensation can be experienced at the site of mole removal, which will dissolve within a few days. The risk of infection is very low.

The effects of local anesthesia can last for a few hours, after which simple painkillers can be used to treat complaints like mild burning / itching. Patients can wash the removal site after two days. Your plastic surgeon will provide you with further advice for minimal scarring. It is important to avoid sun exposure.

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