Mole & Skin Tag Removal*
Whilst the occasional mole can look attractive and is often called a beauty spot, too many can sometimes cause embarrassment. Moles are usually brown or black in colour and the only moles of medical concern, are those that have an irregular border, change shape, bleed, itch, have a discharge or have the appearance of new moles around them. To remove them without scarring we use Cosmetic Radio Surgery and if you are concerned about them we use a mole scanner to give a risk assessment of melanoma and then remove them.
What is a mole?*
A mole is a collection of pigment cells present within the skin. These cells are known as melanocytes. Sometimes moles are referred to their scienctific term, melanocytic naevi. They are extremely common. Most people are born with a few moles and develop others during their lives. They vary in size from some barely visible, to large covering virtually the entire body (termed bathing trunk naevi).
What causes moles?*
Most moles are simply the result of a harmless overgrowth of the pigment cells within the deeper layer of the skin. Most moles develop spontaneously or are caused by exposure to sunlight and tend to appear on those areas of the skin that catch the most sunlight – usually the trunk/arms and legs. Most of these moles appear during the first 20 years of life, although they may continue to develop into the 30s and 40s. However, the majority disappear with age.
Why are moles a concern?*
The main worry with moles is that a small number may go on to develop a form of skin cancer so called malignant melanoma. This form of skin cancer, which can be fatal, is best spotted early and treated with surgical excision (ie it is cut out of the skin).
Who is at risk?*
The presence of moles should not cause you serious problems. But large numbers, more than 25, are an indication of susceptibility to melanoma. So you should take great care about exposure to sunlight. If there is a family history of malignant melanoma, you should be particularly vigilant about changing moles.
What are the symptoms of a malignancy?*
The mole is itchy and painful – for no obvious reason
Increased size or an increasingly irregular appearance, especially at the edges.
A change in colour, particularly if the mole gets darker or becomes mottled.
Satellite pigmented lesions ie. new moles develop/extend beyond the original mole.
How is malignancy diagnosed?*
Although most changes in the size, shape and colour of moles are due to a benign, non-cancerous increase in number of pigment cells, any mole that looks unusual should be examined. Your doctor will probably request information on recent changes to the mole along with a family history to assess your risk.
If only mild changes are found, your doctor will usually only need to take a clinical photograph of it or measure it and ask you to keep an eye on it. The mole’s appearance may be reviewed in a later appointment. But if your doctor is concerned then they may choose to refer you to a skin specialist (dermatologist) for assessment and possible removal.
Avoid unnecessary exposure to sunlight, particularly during the two hours on either side of midday when the sun’s rays are strongest, and avoid getting sunburn.
Keep covered up in sunlight and apply sunscreen on exposed skin.
Examine your moles regularly and get someone to check those you cannot see.
Other Types of Moles*
Dysplastic naevus syndrome*
Some large moles have an irregular outline and an indistinct border. These carry an increased risk of malignancy and tend to occur in families who have a history of malignant melanoma. Patients with such moles need to have them examined regularly and compared with clinical photographs.
Dr Sandeep Cliff has a special interest in the diagnosis and management of skin cancer and is Chair of the Surrey. Sussex and Hampshire Skin Tumour working group which meets regularly to discuss the incidence of skin cancer locally and how it is best managed. He frequently sees patients in his rooms who wish to have a ‘mole check’. It is a pleasure to undertake this and also to give advice of the signs to watch for if a mole is changing and in some cases it is recommended that patients are referred onwards to have mole mapping by a trained member of the team.
Because of his interest in skin cancer, Dr Sandeep Cliff has developed an interest in screening moles for early signs of skin cancer and undertakes moles mapping using the latest digital camera techniques. All photos are then reviewed and images are given to the patient to monitor or surgical removal is recommended, if appropriate, which can normally be done on the day, if required.
Skin tags are a real irritation. They are very common around the neck, underarms, eyelids and groin area. They are often hereditary and can occur during pregnancy due to hormones. They look like pigmented pieces of flesh hanging from the skin and can cause irritation by snagging on clothing and can bleed. The most effective way to remove them without scarring is with Cosmetic Radio Surgery.