What causes moles?

The cause of moles is unknown. It is thought that sunlight or genetic factors play a role. Moles can be from birth (congenital) or develop later in life (acquired).

How are moles removed?

There are different types of moles. Some are small and flat (junctional), some are thicker (compound), and others are fleshy with a root (intradermal). If the mole is small and not too thick, laser can be done. If the mole is large with a deep component, surgical excision may be the best option.

Your dermatologist will assess to see which type of mole you have and discuss the best treatment option.

Can moles become cancerous?

Most moles are benign. However, all moles, even moles which are not over sun exposed areas (e. g. soles of the feet) have a potential of becoming cancerous (melanoma) .

If you have a mole which is changing in colour, size and thickness, or developing symptoms like itch, pain or bleeding, it is best to see a dermatologist for an assessment. Very large birth moles have a higher risk of becoming  melanomas. Some moles are atypical in appearance (larger, darker or irregular). They are known as dysplastic moles and have a higher risk of becoming melanomas.

A minor procedure called a skin biopsy can be done in the clinic to exclude a melanoma. If you have had a lot of sun exposure, multiple dysplastic moles or a  family history of melanoma, you are at a higher risk of getting melanoma.

How do I get my moles checked?

It is important to do a self check regularly for any changing moles. Moles should be regularly monitored for the “ABCDE” changes of melanoma: A for Asymmetry, B for Border irregularity, C for Colour changes, D for Diameter increase and E for Evolving.

Moles should also be checked by your dermatologist with a thorough head-to-toe clinical examination. Suspicious moles can be further examined with a dermatoscope, which is a device to magnify the moles. If you have risk factors for melanoma (e.g. past or family history of melanoma, multiple moles, past history of atypical moles), your dermatologist may recommend digital mole mapping where an automated device takes total body photography (“map”) of your moles in standardised poses. Serial “maps” can be compared and any new moles or changes in your moles can be picked up with sophisticated software. Mole mapping, while very useful as an aid to melanoma diagnosis, does not replace a full body skin examination by your dermatologist. It is recommended that you do your skin checks at least once a year.