You've probably come across a few brown, black or blue moles around your body. In fact, you probably have between 10 and 40 moles in random areas of your skin. This number varies from person to person and is influenced by race and age. People with fairer skin normally have more moles than people with darker skin.1 If you think you have more moles than the average person, there's nothing to worry about, as long as they're not growing or changing in any way.
What Is a Mole?
Moles, or nevi, are common growths on the skin caused by the concentration of pigment cells or melanocytes in a specific spot. There are different kinds of moles that can be found on the body, depending on the period when they appeared, their distinct characteristics and their location. Some of the types are:2
- Common — Common moles are typically 5 to 6 millimeters in diameter, and have distinct edges and a solid color. They are commonly found in areas exposed to sunlight.
- Atypical — Atypical moles have blurry edges and a varying color distribution. These moles have the same appearance as precancerous and cancerous moles, but most atypical moles are benign. However, having more atypical moles may heighten your risk of developing skin cancer in later life.
- Congenital — This refers to moles that were present during birth and are usually called birthmarks. These are at high risk of becoming malignant when someone enters adolescence or adulthood.
- Acquired — Acquired moles appear during childhood or adulthood and develop due to sun exposure.
People usually develop moles in the first years of their life up until the age of 20.3 However, in older individuals, the risk of moles being indicative of melanoma, or cancer of the skin, becomes significantly higher. This is one of the reasons why you should always be aware if they're changing in any way or if new ones are starting to emerge.
Surgical Interventions for Mole Removal
While moles are normal and sometimes are actually seen as beauty marks, some people choose to have them removed. There are numerous products that claim to remove unwanted moles effectively; however, there may be some doubts about their safety and effectiveness.
Some of the creams that people may buy require you to scrape off the upper layer of the mole to be effective. This will then target the pigmentation underneath the skin, allowing a scab to form. They claim that the mole will fall off together with the scab as it heals.4
If there is any chance that the mole is cancerous, dermatologists or skin experts may require a mole removal to contain the condition. Some of the procedures that you may undergo include the following:5
- Excision surgery — An excision surgery entails cutting out the mole and the surrounding skin. The skin is then stitched together to close the wound.
- Shave removal — Some moles may be shaved off using a scalpel, which usually leaves only a distinct pink area.
- Freezing — Noncancerous moles may be surgically removed using liquid nitrogen. After the procedure, you'll be left with a small blister that will heal after a few days or weeks.
- Laser removal — Flat moles may be removed from the skin using bursts of light, destroying the pigmentation and letting it be reabsorbed by the skin.
Before you undergo any of these procedures, understand that they expose you to various possible complications. Together with the usual possible side effects of surgery — infection, suture reactions and delayed healing — you may also be at high risk of scarring.6
Here Are Natural Ways to Remove Moles
There are numerous ways to help you lighten and eventually make your moles less noticeable. Some of the natural options you can try include:7
Apple cider vinegar — Apple cider vinegar contains both malic and tartaric acid, which may help dissolve the mole. Dip a clean cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and place it on the mole, securing it with a bandage. Leave it on for five to six hours. Do this every day until the mole starts to scab over.8
Garlic — Garlic contains sulfuric components that may help get rid of your unwanted moles. Mince a garlic clove. Apply it on the mole and secure with a bandage. Leave the garlic on for 12 hours if possible. Repeat the process until your mole starts to disappear.
Grapefruit juice — The high acid levels in grapefruit juice may help lighten the mole. Squeeze the juice of a fresh grapefruit and apply it directly on the mole. You can dab the juice on your mole up to three times a day, as long as your skin does not get irritated.
Lemon juice — Lemon juice is famous for its skin-lightening properties as it contains the same acidic properties of both grapefruit juice and apple cider vinegar. Dip a cotton ball in lemon juice and place it on the mole. Keep it in place using a bandage and leave it on for 20 minutes. You can do this once or twice a day until the mole lightens.9
Pineapples — Fresh pineapples contain high amounts of citric acid, which may function as a bleaching agent on the mole.
Cut out a small piece of pineapple, approximately the size of the mole you'd want to remove. Put the pineapple piece on the mole and secure with a bandage. Be careful not to apply pineapple juice on the surrounding skin. Replace the pineapple piece every time it dries up. Repeat these steps until your mole lightens enough to be unnoticeable.10
Iodine — Applying an iodine solution on a mole may help lighten and completely remove a mole. This is especially useful for people who have sensitive skin. Dab iodine solution on the mole with a cotton swab three times a day. Repeat every day until you see positive results.
The ABCDEs of Moles
The risk of developing melanoma is dependent on numerous factors, including race, family history and exposure to extreme sunlight. In addition, the abundance of moles on someone's skin may be one of the clear indications of a person's risk as well, with people who have 50 or more moles being two to four times more at risk. To determine whether a mole may be cancerous, you can use the ABCDEs of moles. This stands for:11
- Asymmetry — A noncancerous mole's appearance has to be consistent.
- Border — The border of a benign mole should be clear, not ragged, blurred or irregular.
- Color — In normal instances, noncancerous moles should have a consistent shade without any hint of other colors.
- Diameter — A mole's risk of being cancerous is directly proportional to its size. Moles that are larger than a pencil eraser are more susceptible to becoming cancerous.
- Elevation/evolution — If a mole appears elevated, raised or starts changing over time, it may be cancerous.
Is Your Mole a Melanoma? Mobile Apps May Help
Melanoma is one of the most aggressive types of cancer, and the sudden appearance of moles around your body may be the first indication of this disease. This type of cancer is usually caused by frequent and intense exposure to UV, causing damage to the DNA in the skin cells and thus triggering the rapid production of your melanocytes.
While rare, melanomas may develop from preexisting moles or appear on their own. In fact, melanomas may appear identical to moles, making it hard for patients to pinpoint, especially if they don’t pay close attention to the changes in their skin. Unfortunately, while melanoma is not the most common type of skin cancer, it causes the most deaths. The high-risk of cancer spread that accompanies this condition makes early diagnosis absolutely necessary.12
The good news is that mobile applications are now available to the public, which may help make detection easier for patients. One example of this is SkinVision, an app that assesses the risk of melanomas through a machine-learning technology. It categorizes skin spots as low-, medium- or high-risk in just 30 seconds, which may significantly minimize the cost and time spent on diagnosis.13
However, note that the mobile diagnosis of melanoma is an emerging science, with the accuracy and quality of the diagnoses still in development. If you suspect that a skin spot may be cancerous, it would still be best to consult a dermatologist for a much more accurate assessment.
Don't Worry About Your Moles Too Much
While the melanoma risk is grounded on some solid statistics, the increasing fear of moles may be due to conventional doctors' recommendation of surgical mole removal. Before considering getting your moles surgically removed, make sure that your doctor uses a dermatoscope to inspect your moles, because examinations with the naked eye may not be as clear.14
However, if you're planning on removing moles for aesthetic purposes, consider going for more natural and safer options to minimize your risk of complications, including scarring and the other side effects of surgery. Remember that having moles is normal, and there is no reason for you to be embarrassed about their presence.
Source: mercola rss