Nevi (the medical term for moles) are extremely common benign skin growths that occur in the majority of people.
What is a Nevus (Mole)?
A nevus is a collection of melanocytes (the pigment-producing cells of the skin) that group together to form a growth. There are several different types of moles.
Who gets Moles?
Virtually everyone. Some moles are present at birth. Most are acquired throughout life, often starting in childhood. We tend to accumulate the most number of moles around puberty and their number tends to peak when we are in our 30s. Caucasian people tend to have more moles than people with skin of colour.
What Causes Moles?
Genetic factors and sun exposure are both thought to play a role in determining how many moles we will have. One study showed that children who regularly used a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 developed fewer moles than those who used sunscreen less often.
Are Moles Pre-Cancerous?
The vast majority of moles are not pre-cancerous. They are benign growths that only very rarely become cancerous. It has been estimated that the risk of a typical mole becoming cancerous is approximately 1 in 30,000 or less. Having many moles (more than 50 or 100) means that someone is at a slightly higher risk for developing melanoma.
Do I Need to Have my Moles Removed?
Probably not. Because most moles are not pre-cancerous, they do not need to be removed to prevent skin cancer. Most melanomas (cancers of the pigment cells) start out in skin that looks normal and not in a pre-existing mole, and removing benign moles does not prevent skin cancer.
How do I Know if my Moles are OK?
I'm Worried that One of my Moles May Have Changed, what Should I do?
If you have a mole that has changed in size, shape or colour, or is bleeding or oozing, you should have it evaluated by a doctor immediately.