Mole Removal Options
It’s the brown spot we recognize on our skin, out of the blue, when we look in the mirror. Moles are so common, we shrug our shoulders and go on with our lives. We know that most moles are harmless. Moles are tiny skin growths that appear as dark spots. Some are small and almost undetectable. Others are larger and more noticeable. While moles are considered beauty marks for some people. For others, it can be unsightly. In that case, mole removal could be a serious conversation you can have with your dermatologist.
What causes moles?
Moles appear when skin cells cluster or clump in a particular area. Their dark appearance is connected to melanin, which gives us our skin color. Moles tend to appear on parts of the body that has prolonged exposure to the sun, which may increase in number over time as sun exposure continues. Moles also tend to appear with spikes in hormones. For instance, you may get a few more moles during or after pregnancy. Some also appear at birth or early infancy, called congenital nevi. The science behind moles is limited at best since most pose no real threat. However, some moles are related to the dangerous skin cancer, melanoma. We will cover more on this later.
Mole removal options depend on the size, shape, and location of the mole on the body. If you find them unsightly and want to say adios, you may be a good candidate for mole removal. To be clear, mole removal isn’t always a cosmetic choice. Although most are completely harmless, in certain cases, they can pose a serious health risk and should be examined by a board-certified dermatologist.
Before and above all, it’s important to know your mole.
Are typically round and symmetrical with even color and smooth borders. They can be either flat or raised. Flat moles are usually dark, whereas raised moles appear in a range of colors. Normal moles are about 1/4 inch in diameter, but may vary. Normal moles can appear anywhere on your body- between fingers and toes, on the face, scalp, armpit, and even under your fingernail. These are often harmless but should be monitored for future changes in size and shape.
Also called dysplastic nevi, these are not “normal” looking. They may be uneven in shape, dark or multi-colored, and have irregular borders. These atypical moles tend to present on the back, chest, buttocks, or scalp. As much as they may resemble melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—the good news is they aren’t cancerous. However, it’s important to take note that atypical moles are an early warning sign for increased risk of developing melanoma either in the mole itself or elsewhere on the body. The risk increases if you have four or more of these moles. Also, if you’ve had skin cancer or a blood relative with the disease, the risk becomes even higher.
Monitoring atypical moles is essential for early detection and, in such cases, mole removal is more than a simple question of cosmetic preference. Mole removal could be life-saving, especially in darker skin, where atypical moles can go undetected. That’s why you’re encouraged to have regular full-body skin evaluations by a board-certified dermatologist every 12 months. Plus, you should get in the habit of monitoring moles at home for signs of changes or new growths.
These are moles you are born with. In extremely rare cases, these moles can become quite large, called giant nevi. There are also small and medium congenital moles, which are a little more common. In these cases, mole removal is quite difficult and may require surgery. However, the results vary and the time and work required often outweigh the presence of the mole itself. There are some treatments, like chemical peels, and dermabrasion that can help but must be performed early.
Mole Removal Options
People with an excess of normal or atypical moles may feel self-conscious. To start, don’t fret; having a mole removed is a relatively painless procedure that can be done quickly. And there are options. The right method for you will depend on your preference and on the number and types of moles to be removed.
1 – Cryotherapy, also called cryosurgery, is a simple, non-invasive outpatient procedure that uses liquid nitrogen at temperatures of minus 196 degrees to freeze and destroy the mole. This treats the mole or blemish by destroying the cells. The treatment area blisters and heals completely in a couple of weeks. To complete the process, your dermatologist may apply the liquid nitrogen directly to the mole using a cotton swab. Cryotherapy treatment can be slightly painful during and after treatment, with some swelling and redness during the healing process. Do not have cryotherapy from an uncertified clinic. Consult with a board-certified dermatologist first; cryotherapy is not always for all skin types and can result in scarring and skin discoloration.
2 – Surgery is another simple outpatient treatment option, whereby your dermatologist either shaves or cuts out your mole using a skin numbing medication. Some cases may require stitches or sutures. While shaving is less invasive, usually doesn’t require stitches, and leaves minimal scarring, excision has a higher success rate of preventing regrowth.
3 – Electrodessication is yet another outpatient treatment option that involves the application of electrical current to remove moles by drying them out. The procedure may produce mild, temporary discomfort, yet it is safe, low-risk, and produces minimal to no scarring.
Prevention is better than cure.
While moles are common, excess exposure to ultraviolet rays may cause skin cancer in the future. Make sure to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Protect limbs from prolonged sun exposure and reduce prolonged sun exposure as much as possible. That means also avoiding tanning beds, which is one of the biggest causes of skin cancer. Most of all, always look for moles that change color, fade, itch, or bleed. These are signs that you should visit a dermatologist right away.
Whether you’re looking to remove a mole for cosmetic or medical reasons, entrust your care to Eternal Dermatology, where you’ll always be treated by a highly-skilled, board-certified dermatologist. No exceptions.
Schedule an appointment for a consultation
For a knowledgeable consultation and a pleasant, safe mole removal experience, contact us or book an appointment online now. Our lead physician, Dr. Ife J. Rodney MD, FAAD is a trusted medical, cosmetic and surgical dermatologist in Maryland. We are conveniently located in Fulton, MD. We serve Columbia MD, Clarksville, Ellicott City, Laurel, Bowie, Silver Spring and surrounding areas in PG and Howard County, Maryland.