Moles are growths on the skin also referred to as nevi.
Nevi come in numerous shapes and sizes. Most nevi appear in early childhood and during the first twenty years of a person’s life. Some nevi might not appear until later in life. Moles originate from cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes make the pigment that gives skin its natural color. Most nevi are benign. Moles that have been present since childhood and are not changing over time tend to be benign. However, a nevus that is changing in size, shape or color could be a pre-cancerous mole also called a dysplastic nevus or a melanoma skin cancer.
New moles developing later in life and changing moles should be evaluated and potentially removed. A Dysplastic Nevus is an atypical mole with irregular color, irregular borders and/or asymmetry. A dysplastic nevus is more likely than a benign mole to develop into a skin cancer called malignant melanoma. Therefore, any suspicious or changing mole should be removed and sent for pathologic evaluation. The removal of a dysplastic mole is performed in the office under local anesthesia. After the mole is removed, sutures are placed in the skin to help the area heal. Luckily, the majority of dysplastic nevi will never become malignant melanoma. However, routine, careful examination of all moles is necessary to catch changing and suspicious moles early before a malignant melanoma can occur.