What causes moles?

Moles are made of clusters of melanocytes. Melanocytes are cells in our skin that produce the coloration pigment known as melanin. Although they are usually distributed evenly, they can sometimes group together.

What is a normal number of moles that a person can have?

Moles are a very common form of skin lesion. It is perfectly normal to have up to forty.

How do I know if a mole is cancerous or not?

In general, normal moles are uniform in color. They are also round with a symmetrical shape, where one side looks like the other. Also the appearance of a benign mole does not evolve over time.
Warning signs to look for include: asymmetry, muliple colors, sizes larger than about 6mm and noticable changes in appearance. You need to see a dermatologist right away for an official mole check and medical evaluation if you notice any of these characteristics.

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer.  These are cells that result from mutated DNA in the melanocyte cells. They often start off with the appearance of normal skin moles. However, as they grow and multiply, they will cause the mole to change in appearance. They are also very aggressive and will spread to other parts of the body.

How are moles removed?

Mole removal can be achieved through surgical excision. The doctor may cut around the mole and close the wound with sutures. Or a scraping technique may be used to scrape raised moles from the surface of the skin. This too will often require sutures for proper closure and healing.
Moles can also be removed through cryotherapy. The tissue is frozen with liquid nitrogen so that it will fall off.
Electrodessication is another form of mole removal that targets unwanted tissue through the use of an electric current
Lasers can also be used to destroy melanocyte cells and to close off any blood vessels that are contributing to the growth of raised moles.

What is the difference between having a normal mole versus a condition called Dermatosa Papulosa Nigra?

Dermatosa Papulosa Nigra occurs mostly in African Americans and Asians. The exact cause is not clear. However, it most likely genetic in origins. Some experts believe that this tissue results from an abnormal development of the psilosebaceous follicles. Common skin moles develop from melanocyte cells.
Dermatosa Papulosa Nigra bumps will not result in cancer. However, they may continue to manifest throughout adulthood, even after procedures are performed to remove them.
Moles have a much smaller change of recurrence after being removed.