Moles are small skin growths that may appear flat or raised and are often tan, brown, black, reddish brown, or skin colored. They are typically about the size of a pencil eraser. There are three types of moles. Monthly skin self-exams are essential in the early detection of abnormal moles and melanomas.
Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Skin cancer may at times
masquerade or hide as a regular mole.
Irregular or changing moles should be
promptly examined by your physician or dermatologist.
Minor surgery is the
most effective way to remove a mole.
What are moles?
Besides being a small burrowing mammal and a unit of chemical weight, the term
mole (in reference to skin) is used to describe a variety of skin imperfections. Personally, I prefer the term
beauty mark. Moles may be tan, brown, black, reddish brown, red, purple,
or skin-colored and perfectly flat or raised. Most moles are the size of a pencil eraser (about 6 mm).
Certain moles become darker and more apparent with sun exposure and
pregnancy. These typically lighten somewhat in the winter months. Moles can occur anywhere on the skin, including the scalp, ears, eyelids, lips, palms, soles, genitals, penis, and anal area.
The medical term for most moles is melanocytic nevus (plural nevi) which is composed of masses of melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells of the skin. However, there are a variety of other skin lesions that are also mole-like. These include seborrheic keratoses,
skin tags, dermatofibromas
lentigines, and freckles. In this article, the term moles will be synonymous with melanocytic nevus.
Medical Author: Melissa Stoppler, M.D.
William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in
five Americans will develop some form of skin
cancerin their lifetime. Sun
exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer, and people with fair skin and
light eyes whose skin has a tendency to burn easily in the sun are most susceptible to the damaging effects
of the sun's UV rays. Fortunately, most skin cancers can be detected in their
early stages since skin tumors are more visible than tumors of the internal
Early detection is essential for successful treatment of
skin cancers. You should consult your doctor if you have any suspicious skin changes or lesions
moles that have changed in appearance, bleed, or
new moles or sores
ulcers that do not heal
moles that have grown or exhibit unusual changes
Avoidance of sun exposure and use of appropriate sunscreenproducts are the
best ways to prevent all skin cancers.