Moles are one thing that is common to all humans. In fact, they are considered to be a beauty spot by many, especially on the face. Some even consider this to be a sign of good luck and prosperity.
What are moles really?
They are growths on the skin. Can be cancerous or non cancerous. In Indians, most of the time it is non cancerous as our skin is well protected from sun damage.
Moles can be brown or black in color, can appear at any age, can occur on any site.
They can change in color, number,shape,size,texture,can also become hairy over a period of time or they can remain the same.
When to worry?
1. If there is a sudden increase in size, borders get ragged or irregular
2. If they become painful or itchy
3. If they crack, bleed or become darker in color
4. If they suddenly increase in number and become thicker.
5. Sudden appearance after the age of 30
6. Family history of cancerous moles.
What is melanoma?
It’s a cancerous mole and is very rare in India.
What are melanocytic Nevi?
These are non cancerous moles, usually appear at birth or can be seen at a later age. They usually have a rough surface and mostly hair. They are black in color and increase in size as the baby grows. They are considered as over growth of melanocytes, so basically are hamartomas.
Nevus of ota.
These are blue black moles seen on one side of the face. Usually present since birth or can appear in teenage. These are best treated with q switched lasers.Usually you will need around 10-15 sessions to lighten the mole.
How are moles diagnosed?
They are very typical in appearance. Most moles cause no problems. But occasionally a mole may be unattractive, annoying, or changing. If you see any signs of change or want a mole removed for cosmetic reasons, consult a dermatologist.
Treatment options for moles
There are various methods for removing moles. Some of the common methods used are Radio frequency or Laser Excision. Some dermatologists prefer to shave the mole and then excise. The method depends on the type of mole.
1. Excision biopsy: So far this is the best option as the mole is removed almost completely and also can be sent for histopathology to rule out any untoward changes.
2. Shave biopsy: Can be used to treat superficial moles where the surface is shaved
3. Electrocautery: Electorcautery is a procedure which uses heat to destroy the protein in moles so that it is eliminated from the body as a natural process with minimal scar.
4. Laser excision: Excision is done with a punch, where the whole mole is excised with an instrument. It’s a selective procedure for bigger moles.
Can you prevent moles?
Protecting yourself from the sun is the best way to prevent moles. Always use a sunscreen / sunblock. Apply it at least 20 mins before heading outdoors. Wear full sleeves, hats if sun exposure is unavoidable.
Make sure you have antioxidants in your diet – B- carotene, Flavonoids, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Lycopene.
Try to stay out of the sun between 11AM & 3 PM. The UV index is the highest at this time of the day. Ifyour shadow is shorter than you, stay indoors.
Regular examination of your moles for any changes should be done on top priority. Report to your doctor in case you notice any warning signs. Mole mapping at regular intervals to be done by a dermatologyst if any family history of melanoma.