Most of us will have discolourations and marks on our skin and most of these are perfectly harmless. However, in some cases, you may have moles that you need to keep an eye on in the long term to ensure they do not become cancerous. But what are skin moles? If you don’t know, you will find it very hard to track them to ensure you stay safe. So our handy guide should point you in the right direction.
What is a skin mole?
The scientific name for a skin mole is melanocytic naevi and they are caused when the melanocytes or pigment in your skin clump together and change colour. In very general terms a skin mole is a brown round spot on your skin that can be raised or flat and can come in a variety of colours. These are usually very small although in rare cases they can be very large. You may be born with moles or they can develop over time due to sun exposure.
Types of moles
Junctional melanocytic naevi – these are brown, round and flat and rarely cause a problem
Dermal melanocytic naevi – these are raised, paler and may sprout hairs
Compound melanocytic naevi – more light brown in colour, raised and sometimes with hairs
Halo Naevi – moles that have lost their pigment and are surrounded by a white ring
Dysplastic or atypical naevi – these larger moles may be flat or bumpy and can come in a range of colours – slightly larger than average
Blue naevi – these moles are blue in colour
Why do I get moles on my skin?
Almost all of your moles will develop during the first 30 years of your life and you may be born with them. In some cases they are hereditary or due to the fact you have sensitive or pale skin. However, the amount of time spent in the sun during your childhood will greatly influence the number of small moles you have and this can be a risk of skin cancer.
How will I spot a dangerous mole?
The vast majority of skin moles are entirely harmless and will cause you no trouble. If they are particularly large and raised and cause problems due to catching on clothing you may be able to have them removed. However, some moles may develop into harmful melanomas or skin cancers. The signs to look out for are:
- Moles that have started to ooze or bleed
- Moles that have changed shape or grown recently
- New moles after the age of 30
- Moles that have developed a ragged or uneven edge
- Moles that are uneven in colour with 2 or more shades
- Unusually large or dark moles