It’s estimated that the typical human body has between 10 and 40 moles. Light and dark, large and small, moles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. While they are usually benign, some moles can be cancerous and require immediate removal. In other cases, patients pursue mole removal simply because they have more moles than they would like and find it aesthetically displeasing.
Regardless of the reason, mole removal is a simple procedure that can be done with little to no downtime and minimal aftercare. At California Dermatology Care, Dr. Ting and our providers can remove moles through surgical excision or with a laser. We will explain your options during your consultation and determine a mole removal treatment plan that is right for you.
What Are Moles?
Moles are the result of a grouping of excess skin pigment cells, also known as melanocytes. These extra melanocytes show up as growths on the skin that can vary from light brown to black and range in size. They can occur anywhere on the body and can be raised or flat.
Moles are generally harmless; however, some may be cancerous. It’s important to monitor moles, especially new ones that appear in adulthood, as this can be an early indicator of skin cancer. If you think your mole may be cancerous or unusual, then you should make an appointment to be examined as soon as possible.
During your consultation, Dr. Ting and our providers will evaluate any moles on your body to check for cancerous indications. Fortunately, if a mole is believed to be cancerous, it can be removed along with any surrounding cancerous skin tissue.
Indicators That a Mole May Be Cancerous
It’s important to schedule an appointment with a doctor for an examination if a mole may be cancerous. The ABCDE guide can help you determine if you should seek medical attention:
- A is for moles with an asymmetrical shape where one half is unlike the other half
- B is for moles with a border that is irregular, notched or scalloped
- C is for moles that have changed color, have many different colors or have uneven color
- D is for moles whose diameter has grown larger than ¼ inch
- E is for moles that seem to be evolving and changing in size, shape and color, especially if all or part of the mole turns black
If your mole is suspected of being cancerous, then a biopsy may be performed to determine if the entire mole and area surrounding it need to be removed to eliminate the dangerous cells. Catching a precancerous or cancerous mole as early as possible can help prevent the spread of cancer.
If you believe that a mole you have is cancerous, contact us today to schedule your appointment with a board-certified dermatologist in San Ramon at California Dermatology Care.
Shave Removal, Punch Excision and Surgical Excision for Mole Removal
Most of the time, Dr. Ting and our providers at California Dermatology Care will recommend shave tangential mole removal and biopsy, punch removal and biopsy, or surgical excision. Mole removal through any of these methods is done in-office as an outpatient procedure and is quick, relatively painless and only requires a local anesthetic injected into the mole before removal.
Shave tangential mole removal is often an excellent first step for moles that protrude from the surface of the skin. Suspicious moles may undergo deep shave excision, punch biopsy or surgical excisional biopsy to determine if they are cancerous.
Surgical excision, also known as cutting, is a method of mole removal where the mole and a small area of skin surrounding the mole are cut using a scalpel or surgical scissors. With mole removal by surgical excision, the entire mole, including the subcutaneous tissue, is completely removed from deep within the skin. Surgical excision is typically best suited for larger moles and moles believed to be cancerous.
Laser Mole Removal
Lasers may be used to remove benign, small, flat moles in hard-to-reach places such as the ears and sensitive areas such as the face. Lasers are also a good method for removing more than one mole at the same time. Laser mole removal is relatively painless, and a local anesthetic may be used before the procedure to minimize discomfort.
Dr. Ting and our providers may recommend that we first biopsy the top layers of the mole to ascertain whether the mole is benign before proceeding with laser mole removal. We utilize the KTP (532nm) laser for the more superficial components of moles. For deeper mole tissues, we utilize the PicoSure (755nm) laser and the Enlighten Pico Genesis (1064nm) laser.
With laser mole removal, bursts of light destroy the mole tissue and pigment and ultimately rely on your body’s scavenger cells, also known as macrophages, to digest the remnants of mole tissues that have been broken up by laser energy. Depending on the depth and density of mole cells and pigment, it may take multiple sessions spaced six to eight weeks apart to remove the mole fully.
FAQs: Mole Removal
Who is an ideal candidate for mole removal?
Any patient can have a mole removal, and it is safe for any skin type and skin tone. While moles are more prominent on lighter skin, anyone can have moles.
How long does it take for the area to heal after mole removal?
With surgical incision, the area and surrounding skin of the mole removal will take at least two to three weeks to heal. After your mole removal, our staff will give you detailed instructions on aftercare.
It’s critical to keep the area clean and change any bandages in the days following. The area may be red and slightly raised for one to two months afterward. This is normal, and the area will gradually return to normal.
With laser mole removal, there will be a small red or pigmented spot where the mole once was. Eventually, a scab will form that drops off about a week after the removal, and the area will be smooth and pale pink. Over time this spot will gradually lighten and return to normal.
Is mole removal permanent?
It depends on how the mole removal is performed. With methods such as surgical excision and punch biopsy that remove beyond the margin of the mole itself, the mole is permanently removed. With shave removal, there may be residual mole tissues left behind if the root of the mole is deeper than the level at which it was shaved.
Once the pathology has been confirmed benign, the residual mole tissues at the base of what was shaved or excised can be removed with subsequent punch biopsy or laser ablation.
Are there any restrictions following mole removal?
After your mole removal, you may continue with your normal activities so long as you do not put any stress or tension on the area, do not stretch the skin and avoid sun and water exposure.
Does mole removal cause scarring?
Typically with a shave mole removal, all that remains is the residual base or root of the original mole. In the case of punch removal or excisional removal, a linear surgical scar that may stay red or pigmented for a period of time remains.
There is a risk of hypertrophic scarring, especially if you have a genetic predisposition to scarring, you have a secondary infection or the mole is in a location where there is significant skin stretching or skin tension, such as the shoulder area.
There are precautions you can take after mole removal to minimize the chance of scars. Be sure to allow the area to heal fully in the first few weeks afterward. It’s also important to apply a broad-spectrum SPF on the area and avoid sun exposure whenever possible for the first year.
*Patient education matters to us. The information on this page has been reviewed by the board-certified dermatologists of California Dermatology Care. If you have any questions about our procedures or treatments, please get in touch with us today.