Moles are small growths or lesions on the skin that are normally brown in color. In some people, moles can be of a different color – darker or lighter. They are quite common in people with light skin although they do occur in people with darker complexions. They form when melanocytes (cells) grow in clusters, surrounded by tissue.

Moles are generally harmless, except where they turn itchy and start growing. Then it could be a sign of cancer. The typical size of a mole is a pencil eraser. Some moles are flat on the skin; others are raised. Some are smooth; others feel a little rough. They can be round, oval or irregular in shape and some may have hair growing on them. These variations do not really mean a thing.

Nearly every adult will have a mole or two. On average, a person can have between 10 and 40 moles in different parts of the body. Most form during the first thirty years after birth. Others, congenital moles, are present right from birth. Some moles are inherited. Where this is the case, someone will have a high number of moles. Staying in the sun for long can also lead to an increased number of moles. Over time, moles disappear or fade – usually when one is between 40 and 50 years.

It is advisable to check your moles every month or so for changes. Where there is no change, your moles are benign. If you notice change in size, color or form in any mole, see a doctor right away. Be on the look out for bleeding, itchiness and reddening too. These are signs that the moles have developed into malignant melanoma, a severe type of skin cancer.

When melanoma is positively diagnosed, the doctor will offer the right treatment. When caught early, melanoma can be effectively treated.

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