A benign skin condition, characterised by a patch of brown or black skin that can either be raised or flat. Moles are produced by an abnormal proliferation of pigment cells (melanocytes) and so can also be referred to as a melanocytic naevus. Developing new moles on the surface of your skin is due to overexposure of the skin to UV radiation.
When should I see my doctor?
Moles are normally harmless and are mostly an issue of aesthetics, however in certain circumstances they can lead to the development of skin cancer. You can use the ABCDE pneumonic to help determine whether or not you need to see your doctor.
A: Is the mole Asymmetrical. If you drew a line down the middle of the mole would it be even on both sides or would it be irregular.
B: Is the border irregular? A benign mole have a regular border with a smooth edge. A malignant moles does not.
C: Is the mole a variety or colours? A benign mole is uniform in colour. A malignant moles has a variety of colours.
D: Is it larger than the tip of your pencil rubber? A benign mole is usually smaller in diameter. A malignant mole is often larger.
E: Is it evolving? A benign mole does not evolve. A malignant mole changes. If you notice a change in symmetry, border, colour or size, or if it's becoming itchy, scaly, painful or begins to bleed.
Also look out for the 'ugly duckling' naevus. This is where you might have a series of moles and one mole might be significantly different from the rest.
If any of the above applies, it's important to book an appointment to see your GP to get it check out.
Your GP will determine whether or not they think that the mole looks suspicious and they may refer you to a dermatologist for a second opinion. Your dermatologist may want to take a biopsy of the cells to discover more about the mole and they may determine if it should be removed.
Moles can be removed if they're deemed to be dangerous, however they can also be removed for cosmetic reasons or if they are in a position that causes discomfort and annoyance. Moles cannot be removed by the NHS based solely on cosmetic reasons.
How to manage moles
Wear SPF: Moles develop in response to overexposure to sunlight. This causes an overproduction of melanocytes (sun-protecting skin cells). This overproduction leads to the development of moles. SPF helps to protect the skin from sun damage.