Most people think of moles as being a dark brown spot on the skin, however, moles may have varied appearances. Most moles initially appear brown in color, but may change over time becoming lighter in tone. Others may darken after exposure to the sun. At times, these lesions may become raised and may grow hairs. Moles have different growth patterns presenting various sizes and shapes. They can be round, oval or irregular in shape. They may be flat or raised, large or small, mottled or evenly colored. Most moles appear in the first 20 years of life, others appear later. Some darkened spots on the skin are not moles These include freckles which become darker during times of sun exposure, brown wart like growths that appear at middle age (seborrheic keratosis), and small gray-brown spots found on the wrists, hands, forearms, and face (lentigines or age spots). These are easily diagnosed by your dermatologist and are not cancerous. If you are concerned about the appearance of a mole or if you observe sudden changes in the same, you should consult a dermatologist. Studies show that specific types of moles pose a higher risk of developing into a form of skin cancer known as malignant melanoma.
Many moles are noncancerous and are not a threat to the health of the individual. In this case, removal may be requested for cosmetic or comfort reasons. In other instances, a biopsy may be indicated. If it is shown that the mole is a malignant lesion, it will be removed by a surgical excision.
A discussion of the early warning signs of malignant melanoma can be found under Skin Cancer.