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Mole removal

Moles, or naevi, are removed for a variety of reasons. They can usually be dealt with by two types of surgical methods:

  • Removal with or without stitches
  • Removal with cauterisation (a tool used to burn away the mole)

Mole prepared for removal

Image: Mole prepared for removal

Although laser removal has been tried for moles, it’s not usually the chosen method for deep moles because the laser light doesn't penetrate deeply enough.

The doctor or dermatologist usually bases his choice of method on the size of the mole, the type of mole, and the type of cosmetic outcome desired by the patient.

Mole being removed

Image: Mole being removed

What is a mole?

Moles are growths on the skin that are usually brown or black. Moles can appear anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups.

Most moles appear in early childhood and during the first 20 years of a person's life. Some may not appear until later in life. It is normal to have between 10-40 moles by adulthood.

As the years pass, moles usually change slowly. They can become raised or change colour. Often, hairs develop on the mole. Some moles may not change at all, while others may slowly disappear over time.

A lot of people consider a mole to be any dark spot or irregularity in the skin, but doctors use different terms. The following types of skin marks are not treated in the same way as moles and are not discussed here:

  • Birthmarks
  • Abnormal formations of blood vessels ( haemangioma)
  • Keratoses (benign or precancerous spots, which appear after about age 30)

Reasons for mole removal

There are three main reasons why a mole may be removed:

  • Doubt about the diagnosis and concern whether the mole is a melanoma skin cancer
  • The mole has become a nuisance, catching on clothes, etc
  •  Cosmetic reasons

What causes moles?

  • Some people are born with moles. Other moles appear over time.
  • Sun exposure seems to play a role in the development of moles and may even be linked to the development of atypical, or dysplastic, moles.
  • The role of genetics cannot be stressed enough. Many families have a type of mole known as dysplastic or atypical, which is linked to a higher risk of melanoma or skin cancer.

Risks of mole removal

The risks of removing moles vary from infection, to anaesthetic allergy or nerve damage. It’s always a good idea to choose a dermatologist or surgeon with the appropriate skills and experience to reduce the risks of the procedure.

Other risks vary depending on the area being treated and the method of removal.

One of the most common issues after mole removal is the scar. A lot of people choose to remove moles for cosmetic reasons, not realising they may be left with a scar. Often, your surgeon can give you an idea of the type and location of a scar after mole removal before you make your decision to go ahead.  

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