Moles are extremely common and are rarely a cause for concern, unless they change size, shape or colour. They result from a build-up of pigment cells (melanocytes) in one area and tend to be shades of pink, brown or black.
Moles can be found anywhere on the body, and sometimes several form together in one area as a cluster.
Moles vary in size, shape, colour and texture
Most moles are oval-shaped, but not all. They can also be flat or raised, smooth or rough. In some cases, a mole can have hairs growing from it.
Moles tend to fade and even disappear as we age, while new moles can appear in teenagers and young children. It’s not uncommon to have around 40 moles by the time you reach adulthood. A pregnant woman may see her moles darken during this time as her hormone levels change.
What can I expect in a mole removal consultation?
A consultation with a dermatologist should be your first point of call for mole removal. The dermatologist will examine the mole and recommends the type of treatment that will be most suitable for you.
After assessing the mole and your physical health, the dermatologist will then, if appropriate, remove the mole. You will then be advised how to care for the area after the removal.
It is possible to have histology of the mole performed after removal to discern whether or not it is cancerous. This can cost around £325 for each mole in the UK.
How are moles removed?
There are various methods of removing moles, the two most popular being laser removal and surgical excision. Both mole removal treatments can be performed in an outpatient clinic on the day of your appointment.
Laser mole removal is the most popular option for raised moles, though it is unsuitable for other mole forms. The procedure – using the likes of the Erbium:YAG or the C02RE laser – is fast, practically painless and leaves minimal scarring. An anaesthetic is applied beforehand to numb the area, and there can be a slight redness afterwards which soon fades.
Surgical excision is when the mole is removed by the surgeon using a scalpel. This can cause some scarring, around the same size as the mole removed, but this tends to diminish over time. The wound is stitched, and a dressing applied. The stitches are then removed up to two weeks afterwards.
Excision is the more permanent mole removal option of the two and is usually performed on flat moles or those where the surgeon wants to examine the tissue further. Surgical mole removal costs average around £395 for one mole in the UK.
In both cases, you should be able to return to work the day after the mole removal.
Mole removal aftercare
After your mole has been removed, the area will be inflamed, which can last for up to five days. The body will then start to repair itself – a process that can last for up to one year.
Aftercare will vary depending on the type of removal, but generally, the wound must be kept clean and bandaged. It should also be well-hydrated using an ointment such as petroleum jelly.
Massaging the area as it begins to heal can help with blood flow and repair. Physicians advise staying out of the sun where possible, keeping the site well covered, and using sunscreen.
Melanoma: when to be worried about cancerous moles
A mole can also indicate a form of skin cancer called Melanoma. This could be the case if:
- The mole changes colour or has two colours (i.e. brown and black)
- The mole has crusting, is bleeding or feels itchy
- The borders of the mole are expanding or appear uneven
- The mole is becoming more raised than previously
Treatment for melanoma is always the removal of the mole in question.
People who have many moles are advised to cover up in the sun since UV light can increase the likelihood of a mole turning cancerous.
Another safe preventive practice is to cover up with high-factor sunscreen (minimum SPF30) regularly. This is especially the case after swimming. Staying out of the shade during the hottest part of the day is also recommended.
Surviving melanoma depends on how deep the skin cancer has gone, and it’s important to remember that moles go through many changes before they reach the stage of being cancerous.
If you have a mole that you are concerned about, it’s worth considering a mole mapping examination, as early detection of skin cancer delivers the best chance of survival.
What is mole mapping?
Mole mapping is a technique that skin specialists use to examine and monitor individual moles on the skin over a period of time. This allows them to detect any changes at an early stage.
Dermatologists recommend mole mapping for higher risk patient groups, especially for skin cancer prevention.
Mole mapping is performed using full-body digital photography and dermatoscopy. The latter is a non-invasive examination of the skin surface using a microscope to magnify the skin’s structure.
A computer takes a photograph mapping the entire body (hence the name). Any unusual moles found are monitored with a handheld dermatoscope, which takes close up, high-resolution images of the mole.
Mole removal treatment is becoming more prevalent as it is quicker and easier to perform. It is generally a safe procedure and can be performed at a private dermatology clinic – of which there are many in the medical travel market today.
To find a qualified dermatologist or aesthetic skincare specialist, make sure they are registered with a medical body such as the British Association of Dermatologists.
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