For all the chemistry freaks out there, this is not a chemistry lecture over moles of a substance but this is an article about the myths, the facts and everything else that we know about something that we all have seen and we all have it, the moles on our skin. Moles, also known as melanocytic nevus or Nevocytic nevus are a type of skin lesion found very commonly in all human beings and animals. They can grow anywhere on our skin and mostly surface over the skin before a person crosses twenty. These generally appear black or brown in colour and are basically an accumulation of the pigment melanin, that provides colour to our body, at a specific region forming a spot. Here is everything that we know about moles and whether they can be dangerous? Let’s find out.
10. These are formed due to pigment-melanin
Melanin is a pigment made by special type of cells in our body which are called as melanocytes. This melanin is responsible for providing our body with its colour and complexion. Higher the concentration of melanin, darker is the colour of the skin. Usually, these melanocytes spread throughout our skin providing it a uniform complexion but when these start growing in clusters, moles show up on the skin. This can happen due to UV radiations coming from sun, hormonal changes during pregnancy and diabetics, or your genes might be responsible for it. Moles can be present as a single one or can form a group over one location.
9. They can be of many different types
Melanocytic Nevus or moles can be classified into many types upon variety of basis like size, location, time of development etc. Moles located along the junction of the epithelium are called Junctional Nevus whereas, a mixture of junctional and intradermal proliferations are called Compound nevus. Both of these are developed later in life and are not present since birth, therefore these are called Acquired Nevus. Dysplastic Nevus are the ones that are large in size and have an irregular shape. Depending upon the colour, blue nevus has blue colour as the melanin is rooted very deep in the skin and Spitz nevus acquire a red colour due to a pigment called “Nevus of Reed”. The moles which are present since birth or near birth are given the name Congenital Nevus.
8. They can grow hair
We often see people having large moles that have one or a couple of strands of hair coming out of them. This type of moles are titled Giant Pigmented Nevus. These are congenital and large in size. Just like all the other moles these are also pigmented and these often become a reason to panic for many people. It is commonly said that a hairy mole is turning cancerous but the truth is far away from this. Our body has hair follicles all over except our soles and palms. Therefore, hair tend to grow everywhere and some moles naturally have hair growing from them and though it’s completely normal one can go for waxing, plucking, electrolysis, threading or cauterization to get rid of these hair. In some unfortunate cases they alter its genes and the cell starts growing in an uncontrolled manner. This might cause the hair follicle to get destroyed ceasing the hair growth over the mole and this condition can become problematic.
7. They can appear and disappear
As explained above that moles can be present from birth or can develop near birth while they can also be acquired by a person in his/her first 20-30 years of life. By adulthood, it is normal to have 10-40 moles. But these moles can change over time. As one reaches middle age the moles can begin to lighten and eventually disappear. While this, the mole also becomes slightly raised and can have hair growing over it. Some moles completely disappear by the old age while other remain unchanged over the years.
6. They can be removed
Moles occur naturally on one’s body and we can’t really decide when or where they will appear. But we can surely get them removed. People go for mole removals for a variety of reasons and this can be done by two surgical ways. Excision is one of them which can be done with or without stitches where cutting of the mole is done. Excision with cauterization is another method in which the mole is burned away using a tool. However one may also go for natural ways using the products available at home. These can include apple cider vinegar, Iodine solution, garlic banana peels, mole removals creams etc. One should always consult a dermatologist and know about the side effects before going in for a mole removal process.
5. They have a cultural aspect
As weird as it seems, equally interesting it is. Moles which are scientifically a lesion over one’s skin are thought to be unfortunate and ridicule in many cultures. On the basis of superstitious beliefs, people with moles were attacked and disgraced commonly. Going by the Modern Popular Culture and also in Medieval Europe, moles have been associated with evilness and devilish traits of a person and the demonic characters in plays and movies are shown with mole as a feature of their rugged look.
4. They can be read
Mole reading is a common practice in Indian and Chinese cultures. Astrologers suggest that moles can be the clues for one’s destiny as the foetus of a person comes under the influence of the planets while it is in mother’s womb only. The influence on the foetus due to some planets can be more while for some other planets, it can be less. This results in mole formation. Moles can be interpreted on the basis of their size, colour, shape and location. For e.g. long moles are said to provide good results, square shaped moles to provide bad results initially but by the end they provide good results and triangle moles furnish mixed results.
3. All moles are not bad
Moles are often feared to be cancerous but all moles need not be like that. Having a common mole i.e. a mole which is smaller than 5mm, is round or oval and has a distinct edge with a smooth surface is a natural thing to observe. Common moles have a colour of pink, tan, brown or black. Until and unless a mole starts to bleed, itch, or ooze, or the size, shape or colour of the mole starts changing, there is no need to worry.
2. Some of them are bad, and cancerous
Moles are also associated to a dangerous type of skin cancer called the melanoma. Melanoma is the least common but the most virulent type of skin cancer. Researches have shown that the chances of any mole turning cancerous are very low. For a 20 year old man, the odds of a mole turning cancerous till he gets 80, are 1 in 3164, whereas for women, it is 1 in 10,800. But a person having more than 50 common moles has a greater risk of developing melanoma. A junctional nevus, which is formed at the junction of the dermis and epidermis, is potentially cancerous.
You can read the dangers associated with Moles here in more detail.
1. Things we need to keep a check on
As already explained above that common moles are not something we should panic about but moles do get cancerous in few cases and that’s why they can be termed as dangerous. To stay sure that your moles are normal, one must check their skin every few months. Moles that appear after 20 years of age or if a mole changes its colour, size or shape, then it is of medical concern. Asymmetry, blurred edges, uneven colour and diameter larger than 6mm can be problematic. One shall also check if there is any bleeding, oozing, itching, crusting or tenderness and pain in a mole and if any of these occurs, consult a dermatologist immediately.