Moles, or Nevi, are pigmented growths on the skin. Moles typically appear as small dark brown spots that can be flat or raised. They typically form in childhood and adolescence and most are harmless. Moles form when melanocytes – the cells that create pigment in the skin – grow in clusters.

Benign moles are typically one color (usually brown or pink), round in shape, flat or slightly raised, and don’t change significantly over time. Moles can appear anywhere on the skin and sometimes have hair.

While most moles are harmless, there are certain types of moles that are more likely to develop into melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – those types are:

Atypical (Dysplastic) Nevus

  • Larger than a pencil eraser

  • Irregular shape (not round/not symmetric)

  • Present with more than 1 color, which may be a mix of tan, red, brown and pink

  • Tend to run in families

  • Are the moles most likely to cause skin cancer

Congenital Nevus

  • Are present at birth

  • Can be any size

  • Should be monitored for change or growth

Spitz Nevus

  • Pink, raised and dome-shaped

  • May feature a mix of colors within

  • Typically develop before age 20

Acquired Moles

  • Moles that develop after birth

  • Having 50 or more moles puts a person at a greater risk for developing melanoma

If you notice a mole has changed or is new, you should see your Dermatologist to have it examined. It is important to have an annual skin exam with your Dermatologist to track any changes to moles, which could signal skin cancer – if your doctor suspects this, they will biopsy the tissue and pending results further excision may be required.