Skin moles are a collection of melanin-producing cells known as melanocytes that reside at the top layer of the skin. Though usually brownish in colour, some are much darker and can be flat, raised, round or oval in shape with a smooth edge and may have hair growing on them.
Most times, moles occur as a result of genetics and excessive exposure to the sun. They also tend to appear during one’s early childhood, up to 25 years and may change in their appearance and eventually disappear with age. Here are some of the most common and severe types of skin moles you should watch out for when conducting your monthly self-examination.
1. Dysplastic Nevus
Dysplastic Nevus is a bit different from an ordinary mole and is referred to by doctors as ‘atypical mole.’ Usually, it is bigger than a common mole (more than 5 millimetres wide) and may have a different uneven colour (from pink to dark brown), a slightly scaly or rough surface and an irregular edge fading into the normal skin. It can occur anywhere on the skin but is most common in areas exposed to the sun.
The best way to manage this type of skin mole is to stay away from the sun and go for regular checkups every month to check for any changes. Those with 10 or more dysplastic nevi (plural for nevus) are at a higher risk of getting melanoma, one of the most severe forms of skin cancer. In these instances, consult with a dermatologist for advice immediately and discuss your next steps.
2. Congenital Nevus
These types of skin moles are present at birth and occur in about 1 in every 100 people. This type of mole should be checked against the ABCDE rule of melanoma to ensure it does not develop into the more aggressive and fatal forms. Check if the mole is asymmetrical, has irregular or regular borders, is single or multi-coloured, and has a diameter larger or lesser than that of a pencil eraser (about 1/2 inch) and if it has evolved in any way with regards to its appearance.
3. Junctional Melanocytic Nevi
As the name suggests, these occur at the point where the epidermis and dermis meet as a result of an accumulation of melanocytes. They are usually flat, round and maybe tan or dark brown in colour. Since the melanin-producing cells go down into the deeper layers of the skin as one age, these moles are normally acquired between childhood and early adulthood.
4. Acquired/Common Mole
Contrary to the congenital mole, these moles typically appear after birth. Most normal adults have 10-40 of the acquired moles on their bodies. However, having more than 50 of these may increase your chances of getting skin cancer. Regular checkups are necessary to keep them in check.
5. Dermal Melanocytic Nevi
These types of skin moles are usually raised, may have a light brown pigment, or one similar to your skin. These types of skin moles may also have hair. It is eruptive and should, therefore, be handled with care. Consult a dermatologist if you observe any of the indicators of a cancerous mole.
6. Halo Nevi
Halo nevi are a common type of skin mole where the raised moles are surrounded by a lighter skin pigment, which appears to form a ring due to inflammatory infiltrating cells. Although the cause is yet to be clearly established by doctors, the mole may eventually clear with time.
7. Benign Moles
Being incredibly common, they are small coloured spots on the skin that may appear flat, raised, rough, or smooth and may even have hair growing on them. These tend to be typical moles and therefore have smooth borders, are symmetrical in shape and have one colour. Unless these moles present symptoms such as pain, itching and changes in their appearance or size, they should not be any cause for alarm.
8. Seborrheic Keratosis
These are not your everyday type of moles as they contain melanin but lack the increased numbers of melanocytes. They are also caused by the growth of the epidermal cells and may range in colour from light tan to black. They typically start off as flat marks, which gradually become raised and thick to form a rough, warty surface seborrheic keratosis, also known as barnacles. They may be more common in areas often exposed to the sun but may also occur in less exposed areas. They are mostly acquired after the age of 40.
9. Compound Mole
Also known as compound nevomelanocytic nevi, this is a common mole with melanocytes present in both the dermis and at the junction between the dermis and epidermal layers. More often than not, this condition presents itself in those with fair skin compared to dark-skinned individuals. Since these are generally benign moles, they may not necessarily require any treatment. However, some moles may develop into a dysplastic mole, which is a forerunner of melanoma, a fatal variation of skin cancer.
In case you notice specific changes in some of the moles on your skin, seek a dermatologist’s opinion to avert any risk of the normal mole becoming cancerous.