The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Moles and Your Skin
Americans put a great deal of emphasis on their personal appearance, and so the idea of moles, depending on where they are, can cause people a great deal of self-consciousness. On top of that, depending on the type of mole, moles can be dangerous. On the other hand, depending on the placement and size of the mole, moles can actually be quite beautiful and add uniqueness and character to our appearance.
What Exactly is a Mole?
A mole is made up of melanocytes, cells responsible for the pigmentation in our skin. Instead of developing apart, as they normally would, they’ve developed together, forming a spot in which the pigmentation is very pronounced. Moles can develop genetically or the can be caused by hormonal changes or sun exposure.
“For the most part, moles are harmless,” says one dermatologist from Pleasanton, “but every once in awhile they can be skin cancer, so having a dermatologist check them is a good idea.”
Types of Moles
A common mole is just that, a typical mole. They generally form in areas that are exposed to the sun and are about 5 to 6 millimeters in diameter. The pigmentation runs evenly throughout them. They rarely turn into skin cancer.
An atypical mole also known as dysplastic nevi are moles that exhibit irregularities. Firstly, the pigmentation throughout the mole is uneven. This generally comes in the form of fuzziness between the border of the mole and the skin. While most dysplastic nevi are benign, they do exhibit many of the same symptoms of precancerous or cancerous moles and should thus be looked at closely and monitored.
Congenital nevi are moles that are present at birth, often called birthmarks. This type of mole can turn into skin cancer later in life and should be monitored.
Acquired moles are those that develop during the course of a person’s life. They are caused by sun exposure and are very often benign. They sometimes lead to skin cancer later in life.
Junctional melanocytic nevi are moles that form between the dermis and epidermis. They usually have a raised appearance, dark pigmentation, and form during childhood and early adulthood.
Intradermal nevi are moles that form underneath the skin. For this reason they have a flesh colored appearance or slightly lighter pigmentation. They’re usually benign.
Compound nevi are moles that form both between the dermis and epidermis, and on the dermis. They’re characterized by being raised in the middle, and flat on the edges. They’re also usually benign.
“By and large the vast majority of moles are only removed for cosmetic reasons,” says one Placerville dermatologist. “But if you’re seeing changes in size and pigmentation, that can be a sign that something is wrong.”
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