What Causes Moles? – Here Are the Main Causal Agents
Everyone has moles, and some people are born with them. The reasons why moles grow on the skin vary; from genetics, to fluctuations in hormonal levels and too much sun exposure.
Most people usually grow moles during childhood, whereas some develop moles later on in life. Research conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology shows that moles are caused by very high concentration of pigment cells in a person’s skin. They are usually small and flat and may assume a raised stance and grow eventually.
If you are not keen, you may confuse moles with freckles, which are also dark spots on the skin that develop due to sun exposure.
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How do you get moles?
Everyone has moles, and some people are born with them.
A research conducted by Mayo Clinic shows that scientists don’t really know why moles appear or if they have a purpose. And according to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s not surprising for grown-ups to have even up to 40 moles on their bodies.
Even though it’s common for moles to completely disappear or change, those that look a bit different or appear unexpectedly in adulthood ought to be checked out.
How are moles formed?
Skin moles are harmless/non-cancerous tumors on the skin, typically oval or round in shape. Moles are usually darker in color than the surrounding skin. However, the color may have various shades. Some skin moles are flat while others assume a raised stance.
Most people will develop moles in their childhood, while some develop later on in their early adulthood.
The various types of moles include:
- Junctional-melanocytic moles which are typically brown in color, round and flat.
- Dermal-melanocytic moles which are typically raised, pale and at times hairy.
- Compound-melanocytic moles which are usually raised, light brown in color and at times hairy.
Rarer types of moles include:
- Halo moles surrounded by a white ring where the skin has lost its color.
- Atypical or dysplastic moles which are strange looking and faintly bigger moles that come in several colors and are either bumpy or flat. Further details can be found here.
- Blue moles that are normally dark blue in color.
Skin moles are usually caused by the melanocyte cells in a person’s skin. The melanocyte’s cells produce melanin and gives color to the hair, skin and eyes. When melanocyte cells are unevenly spread throughout the skin and develop in constricted groups, moles start appearing.
Given that most melanocyte cells develop normally, they are generally harmless. Though in other cases, the melanocyte cells could start to develop in an odd way, such as when they develop very quickly past normal. If this happens, it results in cancer of the skin, commonly known as melanoma.
Moles occur in both animals and people of all races and skin colors – be it Asian, Caucasian, Indian and African.
What causes freckles and moles to appear on skin?
The main causes of moles on the skin are:
- Too much sun exposure:
The primary reason for most moles to grow is excessive exposure to the sun. Too much exposure to the sun and especially during infancy and in the teenage years significantly increases the likelihood of developing new moles or to cause present ones to grow in size.
A person’s genetics also play an important role too. Genetics would be the other reason for facial moles appearing on the skin. It is true that genetics indeed play an vital role in a person’s health. Likewise, if you find moles developing on your body, then it surely has a genetic background. It could be that your parents and even ancestors spot moles on their skin. If you have lots of moles due to genetic reasons, then you are considered to be at a very high risk of developing a certain type of skin cancer commonly known as melanoma.
- Fluctuations in hormonal-levels:
Hormonal changes during the teenage years, pregnancy and at menopause can cause present moles to develop and for new ones to grow.
This is also how moles respond to hormonal changes during each of these periods:
- during pregnancy, these moles may get a little darker;
- in the teenage years, moles tend to increase in number;
- during senior years, moles tend to disappear – at age 40 or 50.
People with lighter skin color tend to have more moles than those with darker skin.
The main reason for most moles to develop is too much exposure to sunlight.
Avoiding the sun or regular use of sunscreen can help reduce the occurrence of some forms of moles.
Do moles grow?
Moles do change as time goes by. Some get bigger, become more raised, assume a lighter color while others fade away. New moles may grow on a person’s skin until the age of 40. However, some changes are due to skin cancer. Prevent health complications earlier on by checking out your moles on a regular basis before they turn to cancer.
While most moles are harmless, or non-cancerous for that matter, in exceptional cases, they can progress into melanoma, which is an aggressive and a serious skin cancer.
Others are usually pre-existing ones that may change in shape, size or color and itches, bleeds or reddens.
A research conducted by Mayo Clinic shows that; “numerous types of moles have a greater than normal risk of becoming cancerous.” The congenital nevi, a type of mole that people are born with – could increase the possibility of malignant melanoma, which is a deadly type of skin cancer. Other types of moles that can cause malignant melanoma are the irregular hereditary dysplastic, atypical nevi moles. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the more moles a person has, the bigger the risk one has for skin cancer. When it comes to women, most moles grow on the lower part of their legs; while in men, moles are most likely to grow on their backs.
Checking your skin
Moles are known to change in a few months and even in weeks. So, it is thus important that a person checks their skin every once in a while so as to see whether there are any new moles that grow. This is especially important after the teenage stage as this is when moles become less common. You should also check any change to present moles.
Things to look for include:
- irregular coloring in moles as most only have one or two colors, however melanomas have tons of different shades;
- rough or ragged-edged moles as normal moles are typically round or oval in shape with an even border;
- moles that bleed, itch, are red, or swollen;
- moles that are always getting bigger and bigger as most are usually just the width of a pencil.
Use the A B C D E method as it is a widely recognized way that can help you remember what to look for:
- A – asymmetry,
- B – border irregularity,
- C – color change,
- D – diameter,
- E – elevated or enlarged.
This type of moles can also occur anywhere on a person’s body, and especially on the face, legs, back and arms.
The Cleveland Clinic recommends examining moles every once in a while. You can either ask a loved one to help with mole inspection on your body and especially on those places that you can’t see or simply use a mirror. Double-check those moles that are found on skin that is regularly open to sunlight.
If you notice any variations to the moles on your skin, or are worried about the development of moles on your skin, seek medical advice.
Preventing cancerous moles
If you have a lot of moles, it’s vital to take additional care while in the sunlight. While it’s not always possible to avoid skin cancer/melanoma, avoiding too much UV light can decrease your likelihood of developing it.
You can help protect yourself from sun/UV light harm if you:
- Seek shelter in the shade – especially at noon when the sun is at its strongest.
- Use sunglasses, wear clothes that adequately cover you up or even wear a wide-brimmed hat during hot weather.
- Use a high-factor (SPF15 -minimum) sunscreen on a regularly basis.
- Avoid the use of sun-beds or sun-lamps as they give out UV rays.
Do children also get moles?
Moles may exist at birth or slowly appear later in the neonatal stage. Many teenagers continue to grow moles in their adolescent years and into early adulthood. Such moles are more likely to grow very marginally in magnitude to standard body growth.
Moles that are usually existent at birth are known as congenital moles; and as such must also have been present all through fetal development.
Children may also develop other moles later in life due to environmental factors including sun exposure.
Can a person still develop new moles while in the adult stage?
Although a lot of moles develop in the initial years of an individual’s life, the overall sum of moles normally peak during the early 20’s and 30’s of life to an average of 35. New regular moles do not usually develop when a person reaches the 30 years of age.
If you are over 35 years old and see new moles appearing, you may need close medical observation.
Who is more likely to get moles?
Insufficiently pigmented individuals living in sunny climates and who fail to mostly avoid the sun are likely to have more pigmented moles.
Moles are also common in people who develop freckles. Avoiding the sun or regular use of sunscreen can also help reduce the occurrence of some forms of moles.
Moles can change in number and appearance. The DNA segment received from parents and the amount of sun to which one is exposed, especially as children are some of the main issues that determine mole numbers. If a person’s skin is exposed to more sun, then it is more likely to have more moles. Nonetheless, moles may also grow in areas such as the soles, genitals and palms – sun-protected areas.
While most moles are totally harmless; some may be unattractive and affect a person’s confidence. Moles can also be annoying, for instance, if they often catch on your clothing. The best part is that moles can be naturally treated, and it is not even expensive.
Though the reasons why moles occur vary, you should always employ natural methods of getting rid of them from your skin except in extreme cases where you may need medical help.