Most moles and blemishes are "benign", or non-cancerous. However, some moles may transform into a malignant form of cancer, with possible signs of this being that they grow more than usual, bleed, itch or change their normal behavior. The overwhelming majority of skin cancers are curable, and the key to success is to receive early treatment. Unfortunately, many patients may have a concern about a particular mole, and yet wait months before seeking medical attention.
Are there indications which suggest that a mole may be malignant? Yes, there are. As mentioned above these may include a sudden change in size, shape or color. Other reasons for concern include bleeding, itching, swelling, or pain.
Even when moles are not cancerous some individuals may want them removed. Sometimes the mole is unattractive. In other instances, the mole becomes irritated as it brushes against clothing. The coarse hairs which sometimes grow from a mole can only be eliminated by removing the entire mole.
Procedures for removal of skin lesions require only an hour and can be performed during an office visit. Typically, skin lesions and moles will not recur after removal.
Excision biopsy is necessary when the mole is flat, or when a cancer is suspected (e.g., melanoma). The full depth of the mole is removed and the wound is sutured. The specimen is then sent to a lab for pathological examination.
The scar that results from excision may be only a thin line. If there is high suspicion of cancer, then a margin of clean tissue is removed around the lesion. This ensures that all parts of the lesion have been removed. With a mole on the face, the site is closed using extremely fine sutures on the surface, and absorbable sutures beneath the skin. Stitches are usually removed after 4 or 5 days. This prevents the development of unsightly scars ("railroad tracks"), which can occur if the stitches are left in too long.