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Back to Dermatology Diseases

Mole - Nevus (benign melanoma)

A mole (or melanocytic nevus) is an abnormal collection of pigment cells present within the skin. These cells are known as melanocytes whose function is to produce the skin pigment that is responsible for skin tan. Moles are extremely common. Most people are born with a few moles and develop others during their lives.


Most moles are simply the result of a harmless proliferation of the pigment cells within the deeper layer of the skin. A few of these moles are congenital, are present at birth. But most develop spontaneously or are caused by exposure to sunlight and tend to appear on those areas of the skin that catch the most sunlight. Most of these moles appear during the first 20 years of life, although they may continue to develop into the 30s and 40s. However, the majority disappear with age.

Problems associated with moles

Some can undergo malignant transformation (transform into cancer): malignant melanoma.

Signs that are suspicious of malignancy:

  • Increase in size
  • Increase in pigmentation
  • Fissuring and ulceration
  • Bleeding
  • Itching or pain
  • Induration
  • The presence of satellite nodules around it (due to lymphatic permeation)

Some moles are disfiguring. Particularly if they occur on the face.

Some at a site of repeated irritation. For example moles at the elbow are subject to repeated trauma.

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They can be removed by 2 surgical methods:

  • Excision (cutting) with stitches.
  • Excision with cauterization (a tool is used to burn away the mole).

The choice of excision with or without stitches depends on the depth of the mole and the type of cosmetic outcome desired.

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