Moles are typically brown or black growths that can occur anywhere on the skin. Moles occur because skin cells grow in a cluster rather than spreading out across the skin. They can result from a variety of causes. In some cases they may be hereditary. In other cases, they may be the result of excessive sun exposure. Atypical moles are associated with an increased risk of melanoma or skin cancer.
Most moles are benign and not cancerous, although certain moles should be checked out if they exhibit high risk factors for cancer. Moles that change over time, become asymmetrical, bleed or ooze, exhibit multiple colors or grow larger than a pencil eraser should be examined by a dermatologist. The mole may be biopsied to determine if it is cancerous; if it is high risk, the patient may need mole removal.
A dermatologist usually begins mole removal surgery by disinfecting the area using alcohol or similar substance; this is followed by numbing the area with lidocaine or other anesthetic. Removing moles can then be done using several means. Dermatologists can perform excision, or cutting away, of the moles. Excision can be done with or without stitches, or sometimes with cauterization to burn away the mole. Laser mole removal is another option, although it is not commonly used for deep moles because the laser light cannot reach deeply enough.
For simple procedures, a scalpel is used to shave off the mole; the dermatologist may then cauterize the area with an electrical instrument to stop the bleeding. For darker moles, flatter moles and those considered cancerous, an area of skin around the mole is also cut out and the area is stitched shut. Deep stitches are absorbed by the skin; shallow stitches are not absorbed and may have to be removed later.
Mole removal surgery and laser mole removal is not without risk. Cosmetically, there is the potential for scarring after removal of the mole. People who request mole removal for cosmetic reasons should be aware of this potential side effect. Furthermore, other risks include potential allergic reactions to anesthesia or nerve damage.