The Complete Guide to Managing Moles
Everyone would seem to have at least one mole while most people have more – as many as up to 40 or even 400. It is reassuring to know that the majority of moles are harmless, usually round or oval and no bigger than a pencil eraser. Skin moles can appear anywhere on the body including the armpits, the back and even in the groin area – that is wherever we have skin.
The historical concern about moles
Although most of the time, we do not take much notice of moles, it is a good idea to be aware of them and check them out on a regular basis as in rare cases, moles can become cancerous. Particularly at risk are those people who have experienced severe blistering sunburns in childhood or since. Some skin cancers, such as basal cell and squamous cell, are less serious since they spread slowly or tend to stay rooted in the area where they start. But melanoma can enter the blood stream and travel all around the body to cause tumors in organs and other areas of the body. However, if caught early, melanoma is curable.
The importance of a visual examination
Melanomas are visible on the skin which makes a visual examination of your entire body a sensible thing to carry out every year or more often if you have particular concerns. Stand before a full-length mirror without your clothes and carefully inspect your face, ears, neck, shoulders, chest, back and the rest of your body (not forgetting between the fingers and toes, your scalp beneath the hair as well as around your lips and eyes). Even the genitals should be checked as melanoma can occur sometimes in the body as well as on its surface areas. It may be necessary to have a partner or close family member or friend help you. For a real thorough job, use a magnifying glass.
Dermatologists have come to the rescue and developed a criteria to help you to pinpoint whether a mole warrants further investigation when carrying out your self examination. This criteria is made up of the first few letters of the alphabet for you to more easily remember what to look for:
A stands for asymmetry – both halves of the mole should match.
B stands for border – this should be regular and either round or oval.
C stands for color – the color should be one color including lightening or darkening.
D stands for diameter – the diameter should be less than a ¼ inch (no bigger than a pencil eraser).
E stands for elevation – the mole should not be raised too much above the surface of the skin nor have an uneven surface.
This gives you five definite pointers when checking out your own moles and if you do examine them and find any that do not fall under this criteria, you can then see your doctor or dermatologist for a check up and their opinion.
Evaluation and treatment of suspcious moles
If a doctor or dermatologist is concerned, the mole will be removed, sent to a lab for evaluation and any treatment (if necessary) arranged. A suspicious mole is one that might have the potential to become a melanoma or has even reached that stage.
Even if your moles are perfectly normal and no risk to your health, you may still wish to remove them.
Advantages of moles
Researchers at Kings College, London, have found that people with lots of moles could mean younger skin and better bone density, leading to delayed ageing. They suggest that moles can be beautiful and they may well keep you looking more youthful for longer because the cells of those with many moles have properties which allow them to renew themselves more often. This can be mean less wrinkles and blemishes.
With a study carried out on 1,200 sets of twins, it was suggested that high mole numbers also meant that people were less affected by age-related reductions in bone density, which could mean a lower risk of brittle bone disease and bone fractures later in life. Those with more than 100 moles were half as likely to develop osteoporosis compared with those with 25 moles or fewer.
The reason for these links are unclear, but researchers have noticed that people with large numbers of moles have differences in the strands of DNA in each cell which carry their genetic code. Sections on the end of these strands are called telomeres, and are effectively a countdown timer governing the number of times a cell can divide to produce new cells. The longer the telomere, the more cell divisions can take place over a lifetime – and more moles were linked to longer telomeres
Dr Bataille, the lead researcher who presented her findings at a Royal Society of Medicine conference, suggested that moles were a visible product of the underlying system which controls body ageing. She said: “Some people will have two moles, some people will have 600, but when you have a patient with lots of moles, we noticed they tended to age better.”
Disadvantages of moles
The downside is that having more moles has been linked to a higher rate of cancer - both skin and other types. So those with more cell divisions might have an increased risk of cancer. Dr Bataille, of the research team mentioned earlier, said: “As a clinician, when I get a patient with lots of moles, I automatically want to know about their family history of cancer, so I can think about prevention. This is not just melanoma, but also more common cancers such as breast and colon cancer.”
The embarrassment that moles can cause
Most moles are harmless and don’t have to be removed but many people who have moles on the face feel they are unattractive and so, for cosmetic reasons, do want them to be removed. Facial moles usually get more attention than moles elsewhere on the body.
Moles are usually small, dark, skin growths that develop from pigment-producing cells in the skin but they can be flesh-colored or yellow-brown, they can be raised off the skin and very noticeable or they may contain dark hairs. Having hairs in a mole does not make it more dangerous but may definitely be the cause of embarrassment. Special cells that contain the pigment melanin cause the brown color of most moles.
The removal of moles
If you regard the moles on your face and elsewhere to be unattractive, then consider removing them. Many people go through life without giving their moles a second thought while other people would prefer to get rid of at least some of them if possible. There are several mole removal options available:
- Laser mole removal is a fairly new procedure which is effective for small facial moles. There is slight discomfort with about a 70% success rate and scarring is possible. It is not the method of choice for deep facial moles because the laser light does not penetrate deeply enough.
- Surgery is another method to remove moles either by excision followed by stitches, or excision with cauterization to burn away the mole. There is some pain involved and the procedure may result in a scar.
- A healing natural oils product called H-Moles is an effective, gentle and safe way to remove moles. Made from the highest quality essential oils, only a few drops are needed per application to start the removal process. This treatment will draw out the moles with no burning or skin irritation so that they flake away without any scarring.
A natural remedy is always recommended over a chemical or excision solution. But there are also some less proven home remedies which are certainly not guaranteed but some of which have been used for hundreds of years.
- Honey remedy – simply apply honey to the mole several times a day and it is said that the mole will eventually disappear completely.
- Walnut remedies – make some cuts into the outer shells of some walnuts and rub the juice that oozes out of these cuts onto the mole. The juice may cause a tingling sensation especially in those with a sensitive skin and you may notice the area become darker. This means the juice is working on the mole and the removal process has begun.
- Apple cider vinegar remedy – wash the mole with warm water for 15 to 20 minutes because the skin around the mole needs to be supple. Then take some apple cider vinegar which has been absorbed onto a cotton ball and leave it on the mole for 10 to 15 minutes. Wash off with clean water and dry the area completely. Repeat this procedure 4 times a day.
- Milkweed herb remedy – apply extract of the milkweed herb and then leave it on for the night. After a week’s treatment, the mole may have whitened and be on the verge of disappearing.
- Dandelion root – cut the root of the dandelion, rub this root on the mole so that the milky juice covers the mole completely. Repeat two or three times per day – slowly the mole will detach from the skin and fall off.
- Pineapple juice – apply the juice from a fresh pineapple to the mole at night and leave it on the skin while you sleep. Wash off in the morning.
- Baking soda and caster oil – make a paste with a pinch of baking soda and two or three drops of caster oil and apply to the mole. Leave on overnight and repeat every night until you find the moles have disappeared.
- Garlic – cut a single clove of garlic into 2 halves and place a slice on the mole so that the cut side is in contact with the mole. Leave it on overnight tied with a cloth bandage and continue for some days.
- Tincture of Iodine – again a nightly application of this tincture over 2 to 3 days may start the process of eliminating your mole.
- Drumstick pods and lime juice – mix these 2 ingredients into a paste and apply to any moles continuously so that the moles start to thin and disappear.
- Roasted pomegranate fruit and lime juice – mixing equal amounts into a paste and applying to your moles for several nights is another home remedy to try.
- Grapefruit – squeeze for juice and apply to moles repeatedly several times per day and within a month, your moles could disappear.
- Aloe Vera gel – use by applying to a mole with a cotton bandage and leaving for 3 hours so that it is completely absorbed. Then apply more using a fresh bandage. After several weeks, the moles could have gone.
The link between moles and melanoma
Always keep an eye on your moles and see a doctor or dermatologist if you notice that a mole changes size, shape or color; if a mole bleeds or becomes itchy or painful; of if moles suddenly appear after the age of twenty. A suspicious mole can be a sign of the presence of melanoma.
Meanwhile it has been found that the rising rates of melanoma - documented over the last three decades - are not due to sun exposure as often stated but rather (according to researchers) due to an increase in diagnosis of non-cancerous lesions classified, misleadingly, as “stage 1 melanoma” and therefore actually not melanoma at all. In spite of all the anti-sunlight propaganda, exposure to sunlight (particularly UVB) is protective against melanoma as the vitamin D, that your body constantly produces in response to UVB radiation from sunlight, is protective.
If you can optimize your vitamin D levels through proper sun exposure, you can reduce your risk of skin cancer and as many as 16 other different types of cancer. The very best source of vitamin D is exposure to the sun because when you expose your skin to sunshine, your skin synthesizes vitamin D3 sulfate. This form of vitamin D is water-soluble and can travel freely in your bloodstream, unlike oral vitamin D3 supplements. However, vitamin D3 supplementation is a useful back up in times of cold winter weather and as a top up if you have been found to be vitamin D deficient.