Moles, which are also known as melanocytic naevi in the medical community is usually a benign (non-cancerous) skin lesion that may occur anywhere on the human body. They are dark brown or black in color and may appear alone or in a small cluster.
Their texture differs from person to person. For some they are smooth, whereas for others they may be coarse to the touch. In some cases they lie flat against the skin, whereas in other cases they may be raised. Some even have hair growing from inside them whereas others don’t!
Although all moles may look the same to the untrained eye, on close inspection one can actually see the subtle differences among different types of moles. Some of the most common types are:
Dermal Melanocytic Naevi: They typically protrude from the skin and tend to have a pale hue. They may contain hair as well.
Junctional Melanocytic Naevi: They lie flat against the skin, is round and is usually deep brown or black in color.
Compound Melanocytic Naevi: They protrude from the skin as well, is usually light brown in color and may contain hair as well.
Following are some more uncommon types of moles:
Blue Naevi: They are dark blue in color.
Halo Naevi: In this case the mole or moles have a pale circular ring (or halo) that surrounds it. For some reason the skin loses all pigments around the edges of these moles.
Dyplastic or atypical Naevi (Clark naevi): These moles are somewhat large and looks a bit awkward. They could be flat or may be raised in a bump and can appear in different shades.
How do Moles Develop on the Skin?
Moles develop when melanocytes, a type of skin cells that gives each of us our unique pigment, grow in clusters, rather than being uniformly distributed throughout the skin. That is why they are usually far darker than the surrounding area. They are usually triggered by hormonal changes that may be caused by:
Teen age: Once a person “comes of age”, there are a lot of hormonal changes that tend to occur. The incidence of moles will be the greatest during the teen years.
Pregnancy: Pregnancy makes a lot of changes in a woman’s body. Although pregnancy does not usually lead to the creation of more moles, but existing moles tend to become darker in color.
Sunlight: Prolonged exposure to the sunlight may trigger the formation of moles as well. Moles triggered by sunlight are more likely to turn into melanoma, or skin cancer. Towards the end of this article, we will discuss the link between moles and skin cancer in further detail.
Once people reach middle-age (40 years onwards) the number of moles on the body tends to go down.
Scientists believe that there is a genetic factor behind the creation of moles. If you have a family member that has moles on their face or body then there is a greater likelihood that you may develop this condition at some stage in your life.