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Pigmented Moles

What are Pigmented Moles?

Pigmented moles are growths on the skin that usually are flesh-colored, brown or black. Moles occur when cells in the skin grow in a cluster instead of being spread throughout the skin.

The majority of moles appear during the first two decades of a person's life, while about one in every 100 babies is born with moles. Acquired moles are a form of benign neoplasm, while congenital moles are considered a minor malformation and may be at a higher risk for melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer rarely seen in Indian skin. A mole can be either under the skin or a pigmented growth on the skin. The higher concentration of the body's pigmenting agent, melanin, is responsible for their dark color.

Blue nevus: It is blue in color as its melanocytes are very deep in the skin. The covering epidermis is normal.

Acquired melanocytic nevus : common moles

Congenital nevus:
Small to large nevus present at or near time of birth. Small ones have low potential for forming melanomas; however the risk increases with size, as in the giant pigmented nevus.

Giant pigmented nevus:
These are large, pigmented, and often hairy. They are important because melanoma may (10 to 15%) appear in them.

Nevus of Ito and Nevus of Ota:
Congenital, flat brownish lesions on the face or shoulder.

Mongolian spot:
Congenital large, deep, bluish discoloration on the back of Indian babies.

Risk

The risk of moles changing to melanoma, a dangerous cancer, of small and medium-sized congenital moles is slightly increased. Many studies are currently underway to determine how much of a risk exists.

It is important to inspect congenital moles on a regular basis at home. It is recommended that a dermatologist examine the patient yearly, with serial photographs being considered for some suspect moles.

Signs of early change to melanoma include:

  • Development of irregular borders
  • Changes in color, size, or shape or becomes larger than a pencil eraser.
  • Change in the smooth surface of the mole.
  • A mole, even if smaller than a pencil eraser, that is different than the others and begins to crust over, bleed, itch, or become inflamed

Any of these changes should prompt an evaluation by a dermatologist.

A congenital mole may develop hair growth or uniformly darken. These are expected changes and are not of concern.

Treatment

  • Since there is a small risk of congenital moles becoming melanoma, removal is sometimes recommended.
  • If a mole is suspected of being a melanoma, it needs to be sampled by a method called skin biopsy. One can do a complete excision skin biopsy.
  • In properly trained hands, lasers are also used to remove flat moles.
  • Radiofrequency surgery is available as an alternative
  • Electro-cautery may also be used.
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