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Firstly, please don’t worry, as the vast majority of moles are not dangerous.
Nonetheless, it’s true that some moles can be a concern if they develop into a melanoma. The signs that a mole may be changing into a melanoma can be assessed using the ABCDE system:
Asymmetry – This is when a mole loses its symmetry and begins to look more lopsided
Border – The border of the mole becomes irregular or fuzzy
Colour – The mole develops 2 or more different shades
Diameter – If the mole is more than 6mm in size (although some melanomas can be smaller than this)
Evolution – This is the change in the mole over time
Moles are collections or clusters of pigment cells called melanocytes. These melanocytes can be found at birth but generally they arise during the first three decades of our lives. As we get older these cells can increase in number or darken, an effect which can also occur because of pregnancy and after too much exposure to the sun.
It is not possible to completely avoid getting moles but changing behaviour in the sunshine with the use of high factor sunblocks, seeking shade and covering up should help reduce the chances.
Actually, most moles do not require removal and can be left alone. However if there are any that bother you then they can be surgically removed if desired.
There are two ways of removing moles surgically. Moles which stick out above the skin can be surgically shaved off (by a medical expert – please don’t try this at home!) but for moles which lie flat on the skin, a full excision is required to cut them out.
Both methods of mole removal require a local anaesthetic to be injected into the skin around the mole and this can cause a little discomfort, though only for around a minute. After this there is no pain from the procedure.
The shave procedure does not involve any stitches to be applied so there is actually very little downtime.
The excision method does require stitches to be applied, and these will need to be removed after a week to ten days.