It is amazing how many old fables continue to persist, especially those relating to healthcare. One of these that we occasionally encounter at the Vascular Birthmark Institute concerns the dangers of scratching at moles. Some patients have told us their mother or grandmother warned against scratching a mole because it caused the mole to become cancerous.
While some moles, or nevi, can grow, change and become cancerous, the vast majority of them are benign and completely harmless. In fact, more people are concerned about the aesthetic impact of moles than they are over medical risks. There are absolutely no medical studies that connect scratching a mole, or nevus, with developing cancer.
When Moles Present Problems
Most nevi appear and go unnoticed. The average person has between 10 to 40 moles on their body, and they can appear anywhere. When any of these nevi, or moles, present problems, it is best to see a vascular specialist. Some moles may extend deep into the skin or contain blood vessels, so their removal should only be performed by a specialist.
Moles that grow, change in color, become irregularly shaped, bleed or otherwise change should be examined by a specialist. This is often a sign of cancer, and as with any type of cancer, early diagnosis and treatment is your best chance of defeating it and living a long, healthy life. You can follow this common ABCDE method for evaluating moles to determine if you have a mole needing medical evaluation.
Of course, scratching at a mole can also cause it to become problematic. Bleeding, irritation and infection can result from excessive scratching. Itchy or painful moles should be examined by a specialist to determine if they are cancerous.
Some nevi just develop in areas where they rub against the skin with regular movement or can be irritated by friction from clothing. Moles around the neck area can frequently become caught on jewelry and become bloody or irritated. Many people choose to have moles removed from these kinds of problem areas, although they pose no medical risk.
When Should I Consider Mole Removal?
In most cases, mole removal is a personal decision that each patient makes for themselves. Some moles are even considered beauty marks due to their unique and visible placement. For some people, moles are a nuisance or an aesthetic concern, and so they opt for mole removal. Your choice to ignore moles or remove them is completely valid.
Moles should also be removed when they present medical problems, such as cancer, excessive bleeding or other issues. Your vascular specialist can recommend removal and explain the best options for your nevi according to their condition, size and area of placement. Deep moles or moles with embedded blood vessels should always be removed by a vascular specialist.
The specialists at the Vascular Birthmark Institute can remove problematic nevi from children or adults with several advanced options that leave minimal scarring. When you are concerned about a mole on yourself or your child, schedule an exam and consultation at the Vascular Birthmark Institute.