Moles are benign overgrowths of skin cells known as ‘Melanocytes’. Melanocytes are responsible for producing Melanin, a pigment that gives skin its natural color. Usually, melanocytic cells are spread across the skin’s outer layer called epidermis. A Mole appears when these cells grow in groups or clusters rather than growing individually.
“An average individual has about 10-40 moles throughout his life and most moles are harmless.”
However, you need to completely understand different types of moles before taking a decision on whether you want them removed or not.
In this article we’ll explore the following topics:
1. How to identify a mole and why moles grow on the skin?
2. How to know if a mole is cancerous?
3. Common reasons people consider for mole removal
4. How to choose a removal procedure for your mole?
How to identify a mole and why moles grow on the skin?
When you see a change in color (generally brown, tan or black) of your skin concentrated at a small place usually round in shape, sometimes raised, is usually considered a mole.
You can consult your skin specialist understanding the type of growth it is and what can be possibly done to remove it. (Detailed article on understanding the different type of moles on our body)
Heredity & hormonal changes are amongst some factors why moles grow on your skin. But the most frequent is your exposure to sunlight.
“While you have no control over heredity and hormonal changes, you can still prevent some moles on your skin by reducing your exposure or at least protecting your skin from UV light.”
How to know if a mole is cancerous?
Most moles are benign or non-cancerous. According to American Cancer Society, the most important warning signal for a cancerous mole is the occurrence of a new mole or change in shape, size or color of an existing mole. Following points will help you identify a cancerous mole.
1. If a mole has grown after 25 years, it could be potential melanoma. Please consult your dermatologist about it.
2. Dysplastic nevi with uneven shape and size are at a higher risk of cancer. In case you have more than 5 dysplastic nevi, please consult your doctor immediately. Read more about dysplastic nevi.
3. If your mole shows any of ABCDE characteristics, it’s time you fix an appointment with your skin specialist. If suspicious, he/she would further conduct a biopsy by removing tissues from the mole.
4. According to an article appeared in Encyclopedia, researchers have identified two genes known as CDKN2A and CDK4 that govern susceptibility to melanoma in humans
5. Other symptoms including itchiness, pain, bleeding or crustiness are all signs of a mole turning to melanoma.
Common reasons people consider for mole removal
Apart from signs of melanoma or identifying a cancerous mole, other reasons people consider for a mole removal are the following –
1. Cosmetic reasons
Moles especially appearing on face or neck have a psychological impact on people’s mind resulting in low self-esteem and confidence level.
Removing these moles boosts a person’s self-confidence and helps in rebuilding self-image.
Raised moles may create a lot of discomforts when rubbed against the shirt and cause a lot of irritation and pain while shaving or applying a cream. People tend to overcome this discomfort by getting it removed.
How to choose a removal procedure for your mole?
How to choose the right procedure or which procedure will work best for you is dependent on a lot of factors. For example, if your mole is found suspicious, it must always be removed using surgical procedures i.e. shave, excision or punch. Talk to a skilled practitioner ask about the procedure, benefits and limitations, removal cost, insurance cover, healing time, size of scar & aftercare.
Malignant moles are mostly covered by insurance. Discuss the claim procedure with your insurance provider beforehand.
While shave removal works best for a surface-level or common moles, excision and punch work best on deeply embedded or atypical moles. The procedure followed for evaluation a raised mole will be different from a flat mole.
Moles, especially the ones on the face, could be treated using a shave removal or any non-invasive procedure mentioned below.
If your mole is benign, your doctor may recommend using non-invasive procedures such as laser, cryotherapy, radiowave, electrocauterization etc. Understand risks, benefits, costs, healing time, benefits over surgical procedures, scar & aftercare.
The only limitation of these procedures is that there is no skin tissue left to be sent for pathological examination. These procedures destroy all the mole tissue. Unless you are not completely sure about its benign nature, never opt for such methods.
For cosmetic mole removals, you will not get an insurance cover so you will have to bear the entire expense. Check with your dermatologist and insurance provider on how to proceed with them.
Most medical procedures are performed on an outpatient basis at a doctor’s clinic and usually take no longer than 45-60 minutes. Once the procedure is complete, the dermatologist will give you a complete list of how to take care of the wound, ointment to be applied and some strict dos and don’t for next couple of days.
If you follow them, the healing will be quick with a barely visible scar depending on the procedure chosen.
Home remedies have gained a lot of popularity among people, not just for treating skin conditions but for healing other diseases and ailments.
Use them only in consultation with a skin specialist. The way these natural remedies work is that they burn the mole tissue. If one remedy has worked for a friend of yours doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you as well.
“Always use a home remedy on benign and superficial moles. Try applying it other areas first.”
If saving the cost is the only reason why you opted for a home remedy, consider thinking again.
Moles removal creams, marketed as quick, pain-free & scarless at-home mole removal solution are also frequently being used to treat moles.
To sum it up, know your mole, why you want it removed and then sit with your dermatologist to understand & evaluate different mole removal procedures.
If you want to use a home remedy, ask a medical practitioner about various risks and benefits of each procedure.
Be informed about various removal techniques and take an informed decision.
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