Moles (cont.)

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Who is more prone to getting moles?

Inadequately pigmented people who live in sunny climates who do not practice sun avoidance are likely to have more pigmented nevi. A mole is essentially nothing more than a mass of nested melanocytes at one spot in the skin.

Does having more moles increase my chance of getting melanoma?

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Yes. The total number of irregular moles on your body is one of the strongest indicators for the risk of developing a malignant melanoma. There is also a direct relationship between the number of innocent moles on the skin and the chance of developing an abnormal or changing mole. The more moles you have, the greater the risk of developing atypical moles and potentially melanoma.

Do moles ever disappear spontaneously?

Yes. In rare cases, some moles may lighten or completely disappear later in life. In some cases, this is the result of the body's immune system attacking the mole and causing it to regress. One example of this is a "halo nevus." The presence of this phenomenon does not necessarily signal the presence of cancer. The nevus involved needs to be evaluated on its own merits, exclusive of the presence of the halo.

Is it dangerous if my mole is getting bigger? Should I remove all of my moles?

New or enlarging moles may be concerning and should be promptly evaluated by your dermatologist. While moles may increase in size, particularly before the age of 20, regular moles are unlikely to enlarge as people get older. A mole that has increased in size is not necessarily cancerous. Enlargement alone does not necessarily mean a mole is malignant. Some regular moles may increase in size and darken in pregnancy. Often, a simple mole biopsy by your doctor can help determine if a mole is irregular.

Regular moles pose essentially little to no health risk. It is not necessary to remove all of your moles. Most moles are not cancerous and generally do not become cancerous. However, moles that are changing, growing, new, symptomatic, bleeding, or otherwise worrisome to your physician or dermatologist may need to be removed and examined by a pathologist under the microscope. Periodic monitoring and medical evaluation of moles is important to help determine which moles need to be removed. If you have a personal or family history of melanoma, even greater attention should be paid to your moles with a lower threshold for biopsy of irregular moles.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/4/2012

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Moles - Risk Factors Question: What are your risk factors for developing moles? Briefly, describe your history and experience with moles.
Moles - Seborrheic keratoses Question: Are you prone to seborrheic keratoses? How do you have them treated?
Moles - Melanoma Question: If you have several moles, do you get checked regularly for melanoma? Please share your experience.
Moles - Skin Cancers Question: Have any of your moles been diagnosed as skin cancer? If so, what was the treatment?
Moles - Testing Question: Please discuss your experience with computerized mole-scan devices in identifying your mole types.