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What are moles?

A nevus, or mole, is an overgrowth and clustering of cells called melanocytes that can occur on the skin. They are often well circumscribed (clear borders) and benign.

Moles are small blemishes on the skin that are dark because of a higher concentration of melanin. Melanin is the substance that gives color in skin. Moles that are small, symmetrical and with even pigmentation are typically benign. However, if your mole has any new changes including shape, color or size, then you should see your doctor for an evaluation.

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD
Dermatologist (Skin Specialist)

There are three general types of moles. One type is a flat, dark brown spot (a benign melanocytic nevus), another is pigmented and slightly raised (a junctional nevus) and there are also flesh-colored bumpy moles (intradermal nevi). Robert Redford has intradermal nevi, Sarah Jessica Parker had a junctional nevus on her chin (which recently was surgically removed), Cindy Crawford has a junctional nevus near her lip and Marilyn Monroe had a very famous benign melanocytic nevus. It's no wonder these are known as "beauty marks."

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Moles are the most common brown growth on the face. Everyone has dozens of moles on their bodies. Cancer occurs in 1 in 10,000 moles. Most are benign for life. However, if your mole is larger than the eraser on a pencil, has more than one color, has color that extends beyond the raised border of the mole, bleeds, itches or has irregular borders, then you should show it to your dermatologist or plastic surgeon. These moles would likely be removed.

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Moles are skin growths that develop from the skin's pigment cells (melanocytes). They may be dark brown, black, pink or tan, and may be present at birth or develop during childhood or in adulthood. Most moles are not a problem. However, moles that grow larger, change in color, develop an irregular border or hurt or itch should be reported to your dermatologist since these may be signs of skin cancer. See your dermatologist if you have any concerns about your moles.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.