Woman's back before a mole removal procedure at Saguaro Dermatology - Phoenix Dermatologist

Interested in Mole Removal in Phoenix?

All people have moles. In fact, you probably have more moles than you realize. Fortunately, moles present a very low health risk. This may be why they have not been studied extensively, and the role of genetics in their development is unclear.

What is a Mole?

Moles are an overgrowth of cells. They occur when pigment-producing cells called melanocytes grow in a cluster rather than being spread out over the skin. Usually light brown to black in color, and less than a quarter inch in diameter, moles can occur anywhere on the body.

Generally, moles will develop during childhood and adolescence, changing in size and color as a person ages. They emerge less commonly after age 25, but by adulthood it is normal to have multiple moles, even up to 30 or 40. As with freckles, fair-skinned people tend to have more moles than other skin types. Moreover, moles seem to run in families, with similar numbers of moles occurring on members in different generations.

Most moles are benign (not cancerous). Over time, however, mole shapes, sizes, and colors can change. Some moles may even fade or disappear completely. Genetics, age, and sun exposure likely play a role in such changes. In fact, moles almost always appear on parts of the body that are exposed to the sun. Not surprisingly, infants and the elderly tend to have the fewest moles.

New moles commonly emerge as your body experiences changes in hormone levels, as happens during adolescence and pregnancy. However, new moles that appear in adulthood have more of a chance of becoming cancerous than old moles. It is important to pay attention to new moles or changes in your moles. If a mole becomes larger and irregular in shape; changes color; bleeds or becomes infected; becomes raised or rough in texture; or becomes sensitive, itchy, or painful, it’s important to consult a dermatologist immediately. In addition, people with 50 or more moles should have regular skin check-ups so the dermatologist can monitor for potential skin cancer.

Types of Moles?

The clinical term for a mole is nevus (neev-us) or, plural, nevi (neev-eye), a word from Latin meaning “birthmark.” In fact, a birthmark can be considered a kind of mole and is one of three main types of moles: Congenital Moles (Congenital Nevi), Common Moles, and Atypical Moles (Dysplastic Nevi).

Congenital moles, which include birthmarks, are present at birth or develop during infancy. Often flat and varying in pigmentation from tans and browns to pinks and reds, these moles present low risk for developing into cancer in roughly 1 out of 100 babies born with them, especially if small.
Common or acquired moles develop somewhat later after birth. They are usually round or oval and flat or slightly elevated. While the color of a single mole may range from pink or tan to brown, red, or black, it will only be one color, not mixed. Common moles are often caused, in part, by exposure to the sun. Although they may darken over time, common moles are unlikely to cause skin cancer (melanoma). These moles may appear as a single spot or as a scattering of smaller spots in a patch. Some may be quite dark, and people with darker hair and skin may have darker moles as well. Moles are generally small in size and may sprout hairs.
Atypical moles can be distinguished from congenital and common moles by their irregular shape and ragged, indistinct borders. They may also be mixed in color and rough or “pebbled” to the touch. Although they carry a higher risk of becoming cancerous, most do not actually develop into melanoma. Still, it is important to recognize the signs of potentially cancerous moles.

Assessing Atypical Moles—the ABCDEs of Melanoma

The American Academy of Dermatology offers the following ABCDE guide to identifying potentially cancerous moles. If you have a mole that shows any of the signs described below, you should consult a dermatologist immediately.

Asymmetry: One half of your mole or pigmented spot looks different from the other half.
Border: The border of your spot is irregular and poorly defined.
Color: The colors of the spot vary from one area to the next. Shades may include tan, brown, black, white, red, or blue.
Diameter: Moles greater than 6 millimeters in diameter (the size of a pencil eraser) indicate potential for melanoma; melanomas can, however, sometimes be smaller.
Evolving: Over time, the spot changes in size, color, and/or shape.

Mole Treatment and Removal

The good news: Most moles do not need to be treated or removed. However, you may consider having a mole removed in the following cases: if it rubs against clothing or is otherwise bothersome, if there is a possibility the mole might be cancerous, or for cosmetic reasons. In any case—and despite advice you might find on the Internet—you should never attempt to remove a mole at home. It is best to let a dermatologist determine what kind of mole it is during a skin screening—and, indeed, if it is a mole and not some other kind of skin growth or melanoma—and advise you on the best course of action.

At Saguaro Dermatology in Phoenix, Arizona, our board-certified dermatologist, our board-certified dermatologists will first ask you a few questions about the mole: how long it has been there, if you have noticed any changes in it, and if it bothers you. He will then inspect the mole and, if necessary, take a tissue sample for analysis in a lab. Depending on the findings, he may recommend its removal.

There are various techniques for removal of a mole, including cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen) and electrocoagulation (burning off with a small electrical current). Our doctors do not recommend these two methods because they make further evaluation of precancerous moles impossible. Instead, he uses shave excision (for superficial moles), punch removal (using a cylindrical tool to remove a deeper growth of cells), or surgical excision (for yet more deeply embedded moles).  All of these are in-office procedures that require minimal recovery time. Multiple visits are rarely required.

Before the procedure, the doctor will cleanse the area and apply a topical numbing agent to prevent pain. After the procedure, the excision site will be closed with sutures (stitches) and protected with a bandage. The entire procedure is usually quick but can take up to an hour depending on the size and placement of the mole. Our doctors will be able to give you an estimate of the time needed before you schedule your procedure. Recovery time will also vary depending on the size and location of the mole, as well as the type of removal method and need for stitches. Overall healing time typically ranges from a few days to a month.

As with other aspects of mole removal, the cost depends on the size and location of the mole and the extent of the procedure. Generally, removal of larger moles and facial moles costs more. Removal of atypical moles is often covered by insurance; cost for removal of a mole for cosmetic purposes is generally the patient’s responsibility. Saguaro Dermatology offers very competitive and transparent pricing for its services, sometimes charging up to half the fees at comparable dermatological practices. Our friendly and informed staff will be happy to fully explain fees before the procedure.

In closing, remember that it always pays to be vigilant. Pay attention to any changes in your moles. Take into account your and your family’s health history regarding moles and melanoma. Be sensible about sun exposure and follow our sun protection tips(repeated sun exposure can damage skin and existing moles). And don’t ignore warning signs.

If you have questions about moles or other skin conditions, don’t hesitate to Call Us. We are here to help!

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Saguaro Dermatology | Phoenix Dermatology

About Saguaro Dermatology

Our comprehensive dermatology clinic is dedicated to providing you with the highest quality of care, innovative practices, helpful resources and state-of-the-art technology to prevent and treat a multitude of skin disorders. Led by Carsten R. Hamann, MD, PhD, Dathan Hamann, MD, FAAD, Michael McBride, DO, Millard Thaler, MD, Mohs Surgeon and Jenna Wald, MD, Mohs Surgeon, our passionate team looks forward to serving you with respect and compassion.

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