A manual for moles

Cultures around the world have found myriad ways to make sense of the mysterious pigmentation that shows up on our skin.

Published: 17th November 2021 06:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th November 2021 06:36 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Cultures around the world have found myriad ways to make sense of the mysterious pigmentation that shows up on our skin. The average mole has been dubbed as the beauty spot or lucky mark to align with a range of benign superstitions. Tamil movies have made it the epitome of an impromptu disguise. As far from medical knowledge or practical application as this can be, all is well as long as we keep the ABCDE rule, assures Dr Nidhi Singh, senior consultant – dermatologist, Gleneagles Global Health City, Chennai. 

“A mole is a very common thing; it can be round or oval in shape, flat or raised, usually smooth (or uniform). It can appear in any age group. Some of them may appear at birth or later in life. The numbers do sometimes increase over the year. Sometimes, we find it getting darker in colour during pregnancy. All this is fine. The rule to keep in mind is ABCDE — Asymmetry, Border, Colour, Diameter and Evolving,” she explains. 

Is one half of the mole different from the other? In terms of colour, shape or structure? Then, you might want to sit up and take notice.

A ragged border to a mole, especially one that’s raised from the surface of the skin, may be an indicator of trouble to come. “It’s ragged, blurred or you can’t really make it out — if it’s irregular in some form — that’s also a danger sign that has to be looked into,” elaborates Nidhi. 

“Most of the moles in dark/brown skin are darker in colour. We see a maximum of one or two shades there. But, if you’re seeing more shades there or it’s suddenly changing, you should watch out and take a consultation,” she says.

Most of the time our moles are very small with a diameter of 5-6 mm. Over time and age, some of them may gradually increase in size. Yet, if there’s a sudden increase in size, it’s time to look into what’s causing that additional pigmentation. 

If one mole starts appearing different from the rest — be it by colour or size or shape — you have to be careful about that. Nidhi calls it the Ugly Duckling mole. “Any time a mole starts paining, bleeding, itching, oozing, or shows surface changes (like being sticky or scabbing), you should consult with a doctor.” she cautions. 

To remove or not to remove
A consultation is ideal ground to answer this question and as with most things with the human body, it is a case-by-case decision. “Sometimes, we look at the mole and suspect that it could be a dysplastic one (containing abnormal cells or showing abnormal development), then we go for a removal. It is then sent for a biopsy (not always). Otherwise, moles are mostly removed for cosmetic reasons,” she says. 

In this day and age, mole removal is a very safe process that can be done across age groups. As a general guide against developing more moles with age, protecting our skin against the sun does the trick, she says. For people in sun-exposed areas are more prone to developing moles. Wearing full-sleeved clothes and using sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30, using umbrellas and caps can help, she adds. Melanoma (skin cancer) is not that common in India and most of the moles (or even suspicious skin growth) are not melanocytic. A visit to the dermatologist will clear that up, she concludes. 


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