Are All Moles The Same?

The word “mole” can mean different things to different people. Often this term is used to describe a beauty mark or dark spot on the skin.

In these situations, a mole represents a collection of specialized pigmented cells called nevus cells. These cells are arranged in groups, or “nests” just under the skin.

Brown birthmark (nevus) on Caucasian woman leg.“Exactly where and how deep under the skin these nests are found allows us to use different descriptive terms in dermatology,” says Dr. Miriam Hanson, board-certified dermatologist in Austin, Texas. “For example, if a mole is located at the intersection between the epidermis and dermis layers is the skin, we call is a ‘junctional nevus.’ If the cells are located both in the intersection and the dermis, we call this a ‘compound nevus.’ Moles with cells located entirely in the dermal layer of the skin are called ‘intradermal nevi.'” (Nevi is plural for nevus).

The location and distribution of these nevus cells under the skin accounts for clinical appearance. More superficial moles can be dark in color, and flat with the skin. Deeper moles my lose their color, be flesh-colored or pink, and be raised above the skin.

In general, these regular appearing moles are benign and do not typically require treatment. “The trouble comes when these nevus cells are irregular or have an atypical distribution,” explains Dr. Adam Mamelak, dermatologist and skin cancer specialist. “That’s when we label them as atypical or dysplastic, or even cancerous. In these situations, treatment is recommended.

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If you are looking to have your skin checked for atypical moles, contact us today! Our highly trained staff are here to accommodate and help you with keeping your skin happy and healthy!

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