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Disease: Moles Moles
Category: Dermatological diseases
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Disease Definition:

The clusters of pigmented cells that often appear as small, dark brown spots are called moles, medically known as nevi. However, moles can develop virtually anywhere on the body, and they can come in a range of colors.

Moles may become cancerous in rare cases, as most of them are harmless. In detecting skin cancer, especially malignant melanoma, monitoring moles and other pigmented patches is an important step. Many melanomas begin in or near a mole or other dark spot on the skin, though not all melanomas develop from pre-existing moles.

Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


Moles come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors, although the typical mole is a brown spot:

They can be large enough to cover an entire limb or as small as a pinhead. Moles are generally less than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters) long, or smaller than the diameter of a pencil eraser.

From round to oval, they can vary in shape.

Usually, moles are medium to dark brown, reddish brown or flesh-colored.

Virtually, moles can develop anywhere on the body, including between the fingers and toes, armpits, under the nails and the scalp. Although the number of moles that one has may change throughout life, most people have between 10 and 40 moles. Some moles may disappear as one ages, and new moles can appear into midadulthood.

The surface of a mole can be flat or raised, smooth or wrinkled. A mole may start out flat and brown in some cases and later become slightly raised and lighter in color. Some may simply disappear, and others may become raised enough that they form a small stalk, which eventually may wear away.

Moles can continue to appear until midlife, though most moles develop by the age of 20. Because of hormonal changes that occur during adolescence or pregnancy, moles are more apt to change in certain times in one's life; for instance, they're likely to become larger, more numerous and darker.

One should see the doctor if he/she is over 20 years old and a new mole appears. A medical concern might be indicated in the following signs and symptoms:


  • Bleeding or oozing
  • Suddenly different in size, shape, color or elevation
  • Itching or burning
  • Painful
  • Scaly or crusty

A person should see the doctor or ask for a referral to a dermatologist when being concerned about any mole.


The natural pigment that gives the skin its color is called melanin. It is produced In cells called melanocytes, either in the outer layers of the skin's second layer (dermis) or the top layer of the skin (epidermis). Then, melanin is transported to the surface cells of the skin. Giving rise to moles, melanocytes sometimes grow together in a cluster, though normally melanin is distributed evenly.

What purpose moles serve, if any, or why moles develop, is still not understood.  Some people have unusual-looking moles called dysplastic nevi, which are more likely to turn cancerous than ordinary moles are, though most moles are harmless and don't require special care.



The risk for several types of moles of becoming cancerous is higher than average; these moles include:

Numerous moles:
The risk of developing melanoma is greater when having many moles, for instance 20 or more.

Large moles present at birth:
Congenital nevi is the name of large moles that are present at birth. The risk of malignant melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, may be increased by these moles.

Moles that run in families:
Atypical (dysplastic) nevi is the name of moles that are larger than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters), or larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser, and irregular in shape. These moles are likely to be hereditary. Because they usually have dark brown centers and lighter, uneven borders, they're frequently described as looking like fried eggs. The risk of developing malignant melanoma is greater when having dysplastic nevi.


The entire mole and a margin of normal tissue around it need to be removed if the doctor takes a tissue sample of the mole and finds it to be cancerous. A mole that has been removed doesn't usually appear. However, one should see the doctor promptly if it does.

Usually, the treatment of most moles is not necessary. However, a mole can be removed in several ways for cosmetic reasons:

Shave excision:
The doctor numbs the area around a mole and then uses a small blade to cut around and beneath the mole. This technique doesn't require sutures, and it is often used for smaller moles.

Excisional surgery:
With a scalpel or a sharp punch device, the doctor cuts out the mole and a surrounding margin of healthy skin in this method. To close the skin, sutures are used.

These procedures take only a short time, and they're usually performed in the office of the doctor.

One may choose to cover up an unattractive mole using makeup designed to conceal blemishes and moles, when having such a mole. When the moles are in other parts of the body that are vulnerable to friction and trauma, one may want to have them removed as well. When having a hair growing from a mole, clipping it close to the skin's surface may be possible. As shaving over a mole in a beard repeatedly may cause irritation, one may want to have it removed.

A person should make sure to keep the area clean anytime he/she cuts or irritates a mole. And if the mole doesn't heal, a doctor should be seen.


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Consultants Corner

Yaser Habrawi , F.R.C.S.Ed

Yaser Habrawi , F.R.C.S.Ed Consultant Ophthalmologist

Samir Moussa M.D.

Samir Moussa M.D. ENT Specialist

Dr. Tahsin Martini

Dr. Tahsin Martini Degree status: M.D. in Ophthalmology

Dr. Samer Al-Jneidy

Dr. Samer Al-Jneidy Pediatrician

Dr. Hani Najjar

Dr. Hani Najjar Pediatrics, Neurology

Dr . Dirar Abboud

Dr . Dirar Abboud Hepatologist – Gastroenterologist

Dr. Faisal Dibsi

Dr. Faisal Dibsi Specialist of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery

Dr. Talal Sabouni


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