Moles (melanocytic naevi) are very common. They are collections of cells called melanocytes within the skin. Moles are usually brown in colour, although some may be darker or skin-coloured. They can be flat or raised, smooth or rough, and some have hair growing from them. They are usually circular or oval in shape, with a smooth edge. Moles can be present from birth but more commonly develop in the first 20 years. Most moles are normal and harmless but a few develop into malignant melanoma. It is important to check your moles regularly and see your doctor if you notice a change.
Moles can be examined by dermoscopy which is a specialist investigation performed by dermatologists trained in this technique. It enables the dermatologist to view the pigment patterns and their depths within the skin and thereby establish if a mole has or is likely to turn cancerous.
Moles that are changing or suspicious in any way may be removed surgically by a dermatologist under local anaesthetic in order that the mole can then be examined under the microscope. Moles can also be removed by surgical or shave excision for cosmetic purposes.