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Moles and
Birthmarks

Moles and Birthmarks

Moles are growths on the skin that are usually brown or black; they may be located, alone or in groups, anywhere on the body. A birthmark is a colored mark that appears soon after a baby ‘s birth. Although many moles and birthmarks are completely benign and pose no health risk, some people choose to remove them because they consider them unattractive. Regular use of sunscreen and monitoring birthmarks and moles for changes, is highly recommended.

Types of Moles And Birthmarks

There are many types of moles and birthmarks, including the following:

  • Congenital mole (dark and irregularly shaped)
  • Atypical mole (irregular color and undefined borders)
  • Cafe-au-lait spot (light-brown patch)
  • Mongolian spot (flat, bluish and irregularly shaped)
  • Hemangioma (reddish-purple patch or raised dots)
  • Salmon patch (reddish patch, usually on the upper eyelid)
  • Port-wine stain (dark red and flat)

Most moles and birthmarks are harmless. However, some atypical moles have the potential to be or become malignant. Atypical moles may be asymmetrical or have irregular borders and uneven coloring; they can be located anywhere on the body, including areas not exposed to the sun.

Diagnosis of Moles and Birthmarks

A thorough physician-performed examination of the skin is necessary to determine whether a mole or birthmark needs immediate treatment or simply to be checked on a recurring basis. When a mole is diagnosed as atypical, it may need immediate treatment. A patient with an atypical mole may have a personal or family history of melanoma, which increases the possibility of malignancy.

A physician should examine a mole if it is:

  • Larger than 6 millimeters
  • Itching or bleeding
  • Rapidly changing color, size or shape
  • Multicolored
  • Located in a difficult-to-monitor area (such as the scalp)

Most birthmarks are benign, but some have the potential to become malignant or may indicate systemic disease. A large congenital mole that is present at birth has a greater risk of becoming malignant; this is especially true if the mole covers an area larger than the size of a fist. Café au lait spots can indicate a number of rare systemic diseases, such as Maffucci syndrome or Gaucher disease.