According to the Mayo Clinic, scientists don’t understand why moles form or whether they have a purpose. However, it’s not uncommon for adults to have from 10 to 40 moles on their bodies, says the Cleveland Clinic. Most moles develop in childhood, but some develop later on. Although it’s normal for moles to change or even disappear, moles that look different or crop up suddenly in adulthood should be checked out.
What Causes Moles to Form
Melanin, a naturally occurring pigment providing skin color, produces cells called melanocytes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Sometimes, these cells cluster together for unknown reasons and cause moles. However, some scientists believe moles are caused from skin damaged by the sun, according to American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Moles tend to get darker with more sun exposure, says the Cleveland Clinic, but sometimes, they get darker during puberty or pregnancy. Moles are common, though, and are usually harmless.
- Melanin, a naturally occurring pigment providing skin color, produces cells called melanocytes, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Moles tend to get darker with more sun exposure, says the Cleveland Clinic, but sometimes, they get darker during puberty or pregnancy.
Changes in Moles
Types of Skin Cancer on the Nose
Although it’s normal for moles to change slightly or disappear in adulthood, if they change shape, or brand new moles quickly develop, it’s important to seek advice from your health-care provider who can determine your next step.
Use a mirror or ask a loved one to help you to inspect moles in places you can’t easily see, such as the back of your thigh. Double-check moles on skin regularly exposed to sun.
Moles and Cancer
Sometimes, moles turn to cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, “several types of moles have a higher than average risk of becoming cancerous.” Congenital nevi--moles people are born with--could increase the risk of a fatal type of skin cancer called malignant melanoma. Finally, the more moles people have, the greater at risk they are for melanoma. Men are most likely to develop melanoma on their backs, whereas women are most likely to develop melanoma on their lower legs, says the Cleveland Clinic.
If your dermatologist decides you have a dangerous-looking mole, he or she will start by taking a biopsy of the mole, explains the Cleveland Clinic. It’s a safe and easy procedure, and if it’s determined that the mole is cancerous, it’s then carefully removed by a simple surgical procedure. If caught early and removed, cancer is not likely to spread.
- Sometimes, moles turn to cancer.
- Congenital nevi--moles people are born with--could increase the risk of a fatal type of skin cancer called malignant melanoma.
Types of Skin Cancer on the Nose
Why Is a Mole Raising Up on Skin?
Causes of Dark Spots on Your Legs
Moles and Warts on the Skin
What Kind of Doctor Removes Moles?
What Kinds of Growths Form on Aging Skin?
Facts About Red Moles
Laser Treatment to Remove Moles
Age Spots and Moles
- Cleveland Clinic: Moles, Freckles, Skin Tags, Benign Lentigines, and Seborrheic Keratoses
- American Cancer Society. How to Spot Skin Cancer. Updated 07/06/17. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/how-to-spot-skin-cancer.html
- Canadian Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of melanoma skin cancer. http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/skin-melanoma/signs-and-symptoms/?region=on
- American Cancer Society. Key statistics for melanoma skin cancer. Updated August 14, 2019.
- Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Congenital nevus (mole).
- U.S. National Library of Medicine Genetics Home Reference. Are moles determined by genetics? Updated December 2017.
- National Cancer Institute. Genetics of skin cancer (PDQ) - health professional version. Updated January 3, 2020.
- American Society of Clinical Oncology. Melanoma: symptoms and signs. Updated January 2019.
- Skin Cancer Foundation. Melanoma warning signs. Updated April 2019.
- National Cancer Institute. Melanoma risk assessment tool.
- American Cancer Society. How to Spot Skin Cancer. Updated 07/06/17.
- Canadian Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of melanoma skin cancer.
Cat North began writing for the Web in 2007. Her work appears on various websites such as WORK.COM and info.com. Her writing expertise includes dance, fitness, health, nutrition, media, Web, education and business. She holds a Bachelor of Science in radio, television and film from the University of Texas and a Master of Business Administration in computer information systems from City University.