It's normal for adults to have between 10 to 40 moles on their skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Some people, especially those with fair skin, have more. Although it's not usually medically necessary to have a mole removed, a dermatologist can remove a mole for cosmetic reasons. Even if you have a mole removed for medical reasons, a dermatologist will advise you on the best type of procedure for your case. Doctors generally use one of two surgical techniques to remove moles:
Excision is a technique that removes the entire mole. Normally the method for removing large, flat moles, excision involves cutting the mole and some of the skin around it with a scalpel or punch-type tool. If the dermatologist is worried that a mole might be cancerous or even precancerous, it may be necessary to cut more of the surrounding skin. Because the doctor may have to cut deep, the procedure requires stitching.
Surgical excision normally leaves a permanent scar but prevents the mole from growing back. Aside from scarring, other risks include infection and possible nerve damage. Redness, fever, bleeding, or a foul-smelling green or white discharge from the wound can be signs of infection. Although rare, damage can occur to the nerves in your skin if a doctor removes too much of the skin. Moles on the face pose the greatest risk.
If a mole is small and raised off the skin, shave excision leaves less scarring. The doctor uses a small surgical blade to shave the mole but doesn't remove it entirely. While this technique flattens the mole, it can grow back. It may seem harmless, but avoid the idea of shaving off a mole with a razor blade. It isn't something you should try doing yourself at home. The site could get infected or you could scar your skin.
When dermatologists remove moles, they biopsy some of the tissue to make sure there are no cancer cells present. Even though most moles don't turn into melanoma -- a serious type of skin cancer that can spread to other parts of the body -- you should still watch for signs that a mole might be cancerous.
Know the ABCDs of moles – asymmetry, border, color, and diameter. See a dermatologist like Advanced Dermatology & Skin Cancer Specialists if one side of the mole doesn't match the other side in size, shape, or color; the edges are irregular; the mole has more than one color; or its diameter is bigger than the eraser on a pencil. You also should see a doctor if a mole itches, bleeds, oozes, or is painful.