A mole is a skin abnormality that develops when skin grows in a cluster instead of spreading out. These are usually dark, small patches of skin no larger than the size of an eraser head. Although they are most often harmless, some moles can develop into melanoma skin cancer. If you are concerned about a mole that may be cancerous, please refer to our skin cancer treatment page.
But that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore skin tags. David Lorschter, MD, founder of Curology and a board-certified dermatologist in San Diego, notes there are exceptions. He says people with a genetic disorder called basal cell nevus system (BCNS) usually exhibit spots of basal cell skin cancer that look like — you guessed it — skin tags. Therefore, people with BCNS should have their skin tags biopsied and screened for cancer on a regular basis.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer which begins in skin cells called melanocytes and affects more than 53,600 people in the United States each year. These melanocytes can grow together to form benign moles which, after a change in size, shape, or color can be a sign of melanoma. Caused by sun exposure, early detection becomes extremely important to avoid a spread to other areas of the body. Diagnosis is confirmed through a biopsy of the abnormal skin and treatment depends on the extent and characteristics of the patient. Metastatic melanoma is melanoma that has spread to various organs.
Be aware that home remedies are not supported by medical evidence. Most home remedies are based on anecdotal evidence, meaning that some people have tried these remedies and reported that they had success. However, treating a mole at home can be unsafe and high risk. The mole may be cancerous and this requires medical treatment. Make sure to talk with your doctor about your moles before trying any home remedies.
Cindy Crawford has a mole, and Marilyn Monroe had one. In the Renaissance era, they were thought of as beauty enhancers, but if a mole is unsightly or bothersome, it is worth having it removed. Madonna had a mole and didn’t like the way it looked, so she had it removed. Benign moles can be removed easily with minimal risk of scarring thanks to modern techniques.
And here’s an interesting tidbit to know: “In typical practice, every single mole that is removed is also examined under the microscope, so often we may use the terms ‘mole removal’ and ‘biopsy’ interchangeably,” Jules Lipoff, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Even if a patient is having a mole removed ostensibly for cosmetic reasons, it is prudent to evaluate the pathology regardless,” he explains. “We wouldn’t want to miss something.”
Simply thinking about having a mole removed might send a few shivers down your spine, but sometimes it’s just necessary for your health, Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, tells SELF. If, for example, you have a mole that your doctor suspects or has confirmed through a biopsy is cancerous, excising the mole can help to stop any cancer from potentially growing more. But people also have moles removed for cosmetic reasons or because they’re simply annoying, like if one falls just under your bra strap and always gets irritated, Dr. Goldenberg says.
Acrochordons can appear as early as the second decade. Typically after age seventy people do not develop new acrochordons. They tend to grow in areas where there are skin folds, such as the underarms, neck, eyelids, and groin. They are skin colored or brown ovoid growths attached to a fleshy stalk. Usually they are small, between 2-5 mm, but can grow to be several centimeters. Acrochordons are not painful but can be bothersome. People frequently complain skin tags get caught on clothing or jewelry.
Other skin conditions such as warts and moles can resemble skin tags. Since some moles may be cancerous, it’s best to have your skin tags examined by a doctor. Your dermatologist or family doctor will be able to diagnose skin tags. They’ll likely do this through a visual exam. If they have any doubt about the diagnosis, they may also perform a biopsy.