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Doctor's Terms

  • Mohs surgery: a type of surgery to remove precancerous moles as well as basal carcinomas (the most common type of skin cancer.)
  • Nevus: the medical word for mole. (plural: nevi)
  • Dysplastic nevi: precancerous moles.

Information And Treatment

Whether considered blemish or beauty, moles are extremely common. In fact, most people are the proud owners of 10 to 40 moles. Moles are the result of skin cells called melanocytes, which produce the natural pigment called melanin. When these cells grow in a cluster rather than spreading out, they form small, dark brown growths, though they can appear in other colors, like pink and tan.

Moles can be present at birth (though this is rare) or develop with age. No body part is immune to mole development. Moles are not fixed in size, shape, or color, and can evolve from one year to the next, changing color or becoming raised. A mole often darkens in response to hormones, sun exposure, or pregnancy.

It's estimated that 2%-8% of the Caucasian population has an atypical mole, scientifically called dysplastic nevi. These menacing mounds are more likely to develop into skin cancer and should be monitored by a dermatologist for size, color, and change of shape - or better yet, surgically removed.

Age range: Moles can exist from birth, but new growths are more likely to develop between the ages of 20 and 40.