Moles, medically known as nevi, are clusters of pigmented cells that appear as small, dark spots on the skin, and can vary greatly in size and color. Moles typically appear on the face, arms, legs, and torso, but can develop anywhere on the body. Although most skin moles are harmless, in rare cases they can become precancerous, necessitating surgical removal. Some patients also opt to remove benign moles for cosmetic reasons using surgical, laser, or natural mole removal.
Types of Moles
Common skin moles are dark, uniform in color, and often raised above the skin. Atypical skin moles are called dysplastic nevi, and are usually larger than common moles, with irregular borders and coloring. These moles are considered to be precancerous and have a higher likelihood of turning into melanoma than common moles.
Moles and Skin Cancer
Because abnormal skin moles are more likely to turn into melanoma – the most aggressive and deadly form of skin cancer – it is important that they be monitored for any changes in shape, size, or color. If you have a mole that your doctor believes may be cancerous, he or she will take a tissue sample. Mole removal will be necessary if the sample shows evidence of cancer.
Although mole removal is crucial for patients who have developed melanoma, many patients choose to have their skin moles removed as a precautionary measure, or because they dislike the mole’s appearance. For patients with cancerous moles, surgery is the only effective method of removal. For those who want their moles removed for cosmetic reasons, surgical, laser, and natural mole removal are usually good options.
Mole Removal Surgery
There are three methods used for surgical mole removal: shave excision, punch biopsy, and excisional surgery.
- Shave excision is used for moles that are raised above the skin. In the shave procedure, your doctor will apply a local anesthetic to the area surrounding the mole and use a small, sharp scalpel to shave down the surface of the mole so that it is flush with the surrounding skin.
- The punch biopsy technique, usually used for smaller skin moles, involves using a special device to “punch out" a cylinder-shaped piece of skin.
- Skin moles that are flat or malignant are usually removed with excisional surgery, wherein the surgeon cuts the mole out entirely and closes the wound with stitches.
Laser Mole Removal
Laser mole removal is best for moles that are flat and brown or black in color. Full removal of the mole usually requires one to three trips to a physician or dermatologist’s office, where he or she will apply a local anesthetic and use a laser to remove the mole tissue. Generally, laser mole removal is not appropriate for very large moles or moles that protrude above the skin.
Natural Mole Removal
There are a variety of natural mole removal creams and pastes on the market, most of which contain bloodroot, a woodland herb that grows in the northern United States and Canada. Bloodroot has been used for generations in the field of alternative medicine as a method of natural mole removal, and is now available for at-home use. The process can vary depending on which product you purchase. For bloodroot paste, the process is as follows:
- Apply the paste to the mole and cover with a bandage. Repeat for three days, each time washing the affected area with hydrogen peroxide before application.
- The area at the base of the mole will become inflamed, and the mole will turn pale and fall off.
- Generally, you will experience minimal scarring and no tissue damage.
Because little is known about the effects of bloodroot or other natural mole removal solutions on malignant tissue, it should not be used to treat moles that are potentially cancerous. If you suspect that your mole may be cancerous, consult your dermatologist about a biopsy and surgical removal.
Find a Dermatologist near You
Whether you choose surgical, laser or natural mole removal, all skin moles should be examined by a qualified dermatologist before treatment. Most cancer prevention organizations also recommend an annual full body skin exam for patients of all ages, especially those who have many moles and/or fair complexions. For further details about mole removal, consult a dermatologist in your area.
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