Moles and skin lesions – are they benign, and how are they treated in Franklin, TN?
Ideally, healthy skin would be smooth and uniformly colored. However, that rarely occurs naturally. Most people have some skin irregularities, such as subtle discoloration, clearly defined marks, raised patches, or growths, which aren’t necessarily associated with skin disease or damage. Benign moles and lesions are generally harmless, but they can cause discomfort or be aesthetically displeasing. Here at CoolSprings Laser, Aesthetic & Skin Care Center, we offer diagnoses and treatment for all types of skin concerns.
What are skin lesions?
By definition, a lesion is simply a spot that looks or grows differently from surrounding skin. This includes abnormal lumps and bumps, pimples, freckles, cancers, and many more skin concerns. The causes of skin lesions are as varied as the types. They can range from entirely harmless to potentially life threatening. They might be painful, itchy, uncomfortable, or have no symptoms other than visual irregularities.
There are hundreds of skin diseases as well as harmless conditions, many of which look very similar. Self-diagnosis via pictures found on the internet is extremely unreliable, and it can be harmful. If you don’t know what type of lesion you have or what caused it, see a clinician for accurate diagnosis. Although the majority of spots and marks do not require treatment, some may be cancerous or a symptom of another medical condition. Additionally, skin lesions on the face and other highly visible areas of the body can be embarrassing, so people often seek treatment for aesthetic reasons.
What are moles?
A mole is caused by a proliferation of melanocytes (cells responsible for skin pigmentation), that grow in clusters. In medical terms, it is called nevi and classified as a benign tumor. Sun exposure or hormonal changes can darken moles, but otherwise their appearance generally remains stable over time. There are several types of moles, classified as common or atypical.
The vast majority fall in the category of common moles. Nearly every adult has at least one of these, and 10 to 40 of them is considered average. They are small, round, symmetrical, and dark colored with a slightly raised or flat top.
- Junctional melanocytic nevi – Flat, round, usually brown
- Dermal melanocytic nevi – Raised, pale colored, may be hairy
- Compound melanocytic nevi – Raised, light brownish, may be hairy
Atypical moles (dysplastic) are not cancerous, but they can look like melanoma. Some resemble cancer so closely that even a doctor may not be able to tell the difference through visual examination alone. Additionally, melanoma may develop within the lesion, so it is important to watch for any changes in benign moles.
- Spitz nevi – A rare type of atypical mole, usually pinkish and dome-shaped
- Clark nevi – Larger than a common mole, with an irregularly shaped border
- Halo nevus – Usually has a ring of colorless skin surrounding it
- Blue nevus – May be raised or flat, with a dark blueish color
Moles vs. cancer – knowing the difference can save your life
The connection between moles and skin cancer is complex. A genuine mole is technically harmless. However, it can become cancerous, particularly if it is an atypical mole. Additionally, individuals with a high number of moles have an increased risk of developing melanoma.
Identifying cancerous moles can be difficult to the untrained eye, which is why everyone is advised to have a professional cancer screening at least once a year. However, cancer can develop quickly, so diligence and self-checks between appointments is equally important. Learn the location and appearance of benign moles on your body. Generally, they should remain fairly stable over time. If you notice growth, changes in shape or color, or new skin lesions developing, have them examined by a professional.
The top signs of an atypical mole or skin cancer lesions are:
- Asymmetrical shape
- Borders that are rough, jagged, or poorly defined
- Color variations, or unusual coloring
- Diameter greater than a quarter inch
- Evolving size, shape, color, or other characteristics
Should benign moles be removed?
A common mole is very unlikely to become cancerous, so removal for medical reasons is usually considered unnecessary. For atypical moles, the decision is a bit more complicated, and should be discussed with a medical provider. The risk of skin cancer developing is affected by many factors, including the size, severity, and number of moles, as well as any personal or family history of cancer.
Mole removal is not always for medical reasons. Even common, non-threatening moles are routinely removed in a simple medical procedure. Many people simply don’t like the appearance of these lesions, especially if they are on the face. Moles on the body can also be uncomfortable or lead to skin irritation if they are located in an area where clothing or movement causes abrasion.
Treatment options for benign moles
Removing a benign mole is a routine, very low-risk treatment. However, patients should be aware that any surgery or procedure that removes tissue may leave a scar. For mole removal, the scar (if any) is generally extremely small and inconspicuous.
There are several techniques that may be used, depending on the size and location of the mole as well as other factors. Although the methods are different, you can rest assured we will take steps to ensure your comfort and expedient healing in any procedure. The most common mole removal techniques include:
- Cryosurgery – Liquid nitrogen is applied, which causes the mole to freeze. In most cases, it will simply fall off with minimal healing time. Occasionally, a small blister may temporarily form.
- Surgical removal – The mole is cut off with a scalpel or removed with laser surgery techniques. The surgical wound is generally superficial, though it may be a bit deeper if subcutaneous cells are involved. Stitches may be necessary after removing particularly large or deep moles.
- Electrolysis – An electrical current is used to burn off upper tissue layers of the mole. This technique minimizes bleeding, but it may require more than one session for complete removal.
If you have a bothersome begin mole, or one that looks like it may be cancerous, please visit CoolSprings Laser, Aesthetic & Skin Care Center right away. Just call us at (615) 656-4030 to get started.
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