Most moles appear on the skin during childhood and adolescence. Moles will grow as the child (or teen) grows. Some moles will darken, and others will lighten. These changes are expected and seldom a sign of melanoma, the most-serious skin cancer.
How do dermatologists tell whether a spot is a mole?
A dermatologist’s trained eye can often tell whether a spot is a mole.
How do dermatologists treat moles?
Most moles do not require treatment. A dermatologist will remove a mole that is:
- Bothersome (rubs against clothing, etc.)
- Unattractive to a patient
- Suspicious (could be skin cancer)
A dermatologist can usually remove a mole during an office visit. Most removals require only one office visit. Occasionally, a patient may need to return for a second visit.
Whether it’s during one or two visits, a dermatologist can safely and easily remove a mole. A dermatologist will use one of these procedures:
- Surgical excision: The dermatologist cuts out the entire mole and stitches the skin closed if necessary. Your mole will also be looked at under a microscope by a specially trained doctor. This is done to check for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, your dermatologist will let you know.
- Surgical shave: The dermatologist uses a surgical blade to remove the mole. In most cases, a specially trained doctor will examine your mole under a microscope. If cancer cells are found, your dermatologist will let you know.
Never try to remove a mole at home
While it may seem more convenient to shave off or cut out a mole yourself, there are three very good reasons a dermatologist should remove it:
- Skin cancer: If the mole contains skin cancer, some of the cancer cells can stay in the skin and even spread.
- Scarring: You can disfigure your skin causing a scar.
- Infection: A dermatologist uses sterile equipment to prevent infection.
After a mole is removed, the skin will heal. If the mole grows back, immediately make another appointment to see your dermatologist. This could be a sign of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.