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Moles are one of the most common skin conditions in the country. In fact, about 327 million people in the US have moles. Moles can develop anywhere on the body and affect people of all ages. Most are brown or black, although they can also be tan, pink, blue, or even red. Moles tend to develop during childhood or adolescence and remain throughout adulthood.

While moles are often perfectly normal pigmented skin growths, they can be cancerous. Monitoring the size, shape, and appearance of moles is an important step in the early detection of cancerous growths and melanoma - the most serious form of skin cancer.

What Causes Moles?

Moles form when skin cells (known as melanocytes) grow together in clusters rather than spreading throughout the skin evenly. While anyone can develop moles, there are a few factors that increase the likelihood of a person having them. These include the following:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and other life events
  • Frequent sun exposure or sunburns
skin cancer early detection

3 Different Types of Moles

These three types of moles are the most common:


Congenital Moles

Congenital moles are moles a person is born with. These moles are usually flat and can vary in color. It’s important to monitor congenital moles for changes throughout the lifespan since the American Academy of Dermatology has found that the presence of congenital moles increases the risk of developing melanoma later in life.

Common Moles

Common moles are sometimes called acquired moles since they tend to appear on the skin in the months and years after birth. The average person has about 10-40 common moles on their bodies, most of which are found in areas of the skin that are regularly exposed to sunlight.

Atypical Moles

Atypical moles are also known as dysplastic nevus and tend to be larger than common moles. These moles may have irregularly-shaped borders and may be two or more colors. They appear throughout the body but are most common in the scalp, neck, and torso. These moles are the most likely to be cancerous.

Signs a Mole May be Cancerous

While moles are typically benign, they can be the first sign of melanoma. As such, it’s important to monitor all moles regularly through comprehensive dermatological screenings. Our dermatologists will work with you to identify signs of cancerous or precancerous moles, including moles that are changing in size, shape, or color, or those that are painful, tender, itchy, or that bleed or ooze. If we detect a mole that we suspect is cancerous or precancerous, our team will remove the mole and inspect the tissue to detect the presence of any cancerous cells.

We recommend having a mole check and skin cancer screening at least once every 1-3 years. Contact our team to schedule your first appointment today.

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