Multiple nevi, known as moles, are growths on the skin. Moles are skin cells (melanocytes) that grow in a cluster instead of being spread throughout the skin. Moles appear in childhood either alone or in groups. As the years pass, moles usually slowly change by becoming raised or changing color. While moles rarely become cancerous, it’s important to know the difference between a mole and skin cancer (melanoma).
What do multiple nevi (moles) look like?
Moles usually have these characteristics:
- Round or oval shaped
- Less than 1/4 inch wide
- Flat, smooth top that may be raised to form a smooth bump
- A color that is complimentary to each individual’s skin color
What are the causes of multiple nevi (moles)?
Moles usually appear at birth, in childhood or early adulthood. They can darken and change throughout the years or with hormone changes such as pregnancy.
How are multiple nevi (moles) diagnosed?
Moles are usually diagnosed by your doctor or a dermatologist (skin specialist) with the naked eye or a dermatoscopy (microscopic lens to see the skin closely).
To spot the differences between a normal mole and a cancerous melanoma use the ABCDE method. The mole might be cancerous if it’s:
- Asymmetrical (uneven)
- Border (irregular)
- Color (multiple colors)
- Diameter (moles greater than ¼ inch are more likely to become cancerous)
- Evolution (changes in mole)
If you find a new mole or see a major change in an existing mole, tell your doctor or dermatologist.
How are multiple nevi (moles) treated?
Moles that are non-cancerous may simply be watched for changes. If your doctor or dermatologist suspects it could be cancerous, they may take a biopsy (removing a tiny piece of tissue for examination). If it’s cancerous, it’ll be surgically removed. Further treatment would depend on a variety of factors.