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Recently, a couple of patients of mine were concerned about moles and were thinking of having their moles removed. I told them that it’s perfectly normal for any person to worry about this issue. It could be a health risk or a symptom of deadly diseases such as melanoma, which is a form of skin cancer. Most are generally harmless, but it can never hurt to have them checked.
There were also a large number of patients that wanted to have their moles removed for cosmetic reasons. A host of them confessed they’ve struggled with their self-confidence and felt insecure because of that particular skin concern. I reassured them there is no need to worry since they can choose from several procedures here in Singapore to address the issue.
Whatever your concern is, it is important to stay informed and be able to make the correct decisions. Keep reading to learn more about moles, their risks and how you can get rid of them.
The ABCDE Rule
Moles are caused by a high concentration of melanin produced by cells called melanocytes in a specific spot of your skin. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but there are indications when a mole is cancerous or abnormal. One way that doctors identify potentially dangerous moles is by applying the ABCDE rule. It stands for:
A – is for ASYMMETRICAL. Using a pen or any straight implement, try to line it up on top of your mole. See if you can divide it into two equally shaped albeit flipped parts. If you can’t, then the pigmented dot might be dangerous and you should have it checked.
B – is for BORDER. Your mole should have a border that is a well-defined, continuous line with no irregular pattern. If it comes with a scalloped border instead, it may be a symptom of a skin condition like melanoma.
C – is for COLOR. Each mole typically has a single, even colour - usually tan, blue, red, pink, brown or black. If you can see different colours in a single mole, this is not okay. Do regular tests to see if it presents such problems or if it changes over time.
D – is for DIAMETER. Moles are usually small, with diameters of less than 6mm. If yours is unusually large, it may be a good time to talk to your dermatologist.
E – is for EVOLUTION. Usually when a mole forms, its appearance is set and does not change drastically. This is why if you notice any alterations over time, anything regarding size, colour, shape or height, it may be potentially dangerous. Has it checked immediately as this can indicate melanoma? It shouldn't be confused with skin tags, though.
If your family has a history of skin cancer, have yourself checked as well, no matter the appearance of your moles. Some dangerous moles can appear normal and harmless.
Monitoring and Managing Moles
Protect yourself from the sun!
One thing I always preach to my patients is to always have a form of sun protection. The sun is a giant ball of light and energy that stimulates your melanocytes to produce more melanin. In turn, this causes moles to appear. Not to mention, it radiates harmful ultraviolet (UV) light that can bring about cancer cells.
Make sure to always wear sunscreen (SPF 30+) and bring an umbrella or hat when you go outside. People with light skin complexion are more prone to sun damage and would need extra care.
Check and monitor your moles periodically.
If you are concerned about your mole and are planning to have it checked, one thing you can do is monitor and take photos of it. At least once a month, lookout for new pigmented spots and if there are changes in size, shape and colour on your preexisting ones. This data will be especially valuable for your dermatologist and can assist in getting an accurate diagnosis. If you notice anything unusual, call your doctor about it.
Home Remedies that Might Help in Facial Mole Removal
None of these home remedies has been shown to be effective by scientific research, but a lot of people swear on their effectiveness. It wouldn’t hurt to try these out and see if they work:
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Apply a few drops of apple cider vinegar on your mole using a piece of cotton. Also, add some petroleum jelly on the skin around it to protect it from the acidity. Set the cotton in place using some tape and let it soak for 1-2 hours. Do this 3 times a day for 4 weeks or more.
- Garlic Paste – If you don’t have any apple cider vinegar lying around in your house, you can alternatively use crushed or ground garlic paste. Apply petroleum jelly around the mole and wrap a bandage around the paste to secure its position. Leave it on for 3 to 4 hours before you remove it. Do this once a day for 3 weeks or more.
- Banana Peel – Cover the targeted area with a banana peel and secure it with some bandage or tape. Do this every night until its appearance becomes lighter.
Aside from these home remedies, there also are mole removal creams. Again, I do not claim that they will work for you. If you’re looking for a sure and permanent solution to mole removal, then there are multiple options available right now.
Mole Removal Procedures in Singapore
Before you proceed with any of these treatments, make sure that you consult your dermatologist so that he/she can suggest the best options for you.
Mole Removal Surgery
If you’re considering surgically removing a problematic patch of skin, your doctor may subject you to a series of tests to ensure you are healthy. There are three main surgery options right now:
- Shave Excision (Surgical Excision)
This procedure is usually done if the mole protrudes or looks like a bump on the surface of the skin (raised moles). A local anaesthetic (numbing cream) is first applied to the surrounding area. The doctor then uses a small scalpel to "shave" off the mole from your skin until it becomes flat and level with the rest of your skin’s surface. Some bleeding will occur, and the specialist may apply pressure and topical medicine to stop it.
- Punch Biopsy
If your mole is small, circular and its pigmentation goes under the skin, then your doctor may recommend a punch biopsy. They will administer local anaesthesia into the affected site using injection. This may cause a mild burning sensation on your skin for a few seconds. The doctor will then use a circular tool that “punches out” a small area of your skin that includes the mole and the underlying layer of tissue. Upon closing the skin, some stitches may be needed. After that, a dressing or bandage is applied over the site to protect the wound from bleeding. Minimal scarring will occur but will disappear eventually. The healing time is about 2-3 weeks.
- Excisional Biopsy
This is similar to a punch skin biopsy where it targets moles that affect underlying skin layers. However, this procedure can also be used for irregularly shaped moles. Instead of using a circular punch tool, the medical professional opts for a scalpel and cuts off a deep lump of skin including the mole. Local anaesthesia is required to minimise the pain and discomfort felt by the patient. The lesion from the surgery will require stitches. Quite possibly it will leave a scar after a few days when the wound healing process is at full speed. Don't worry, it will be faint and almost invisible.
Surgical methods for general and facial mole removal cost around $100 to $500 per mole depending on its size and shape.
Cryotherapy is a non-surgical procedure that involves the use of liquid nitrogen (or some other cooling substance). The purpose is to freeze and destroy the skin cells that are responsible for the appearance of moles. After they die, your body’s natural processes will eventually flush them out.
This may cause parts of your skin to peel off and will lighten the appearance of the treated segment. A single mole may require 2 or more sessions of cryotherapy before it can be fully removed. The price is based on a variety of factors such as skin type and mole size. Cryotherapy costs around $200 per session.
Electrocautery is a fast, cheap, non-surgical procedure. It works by heating the mole with a handheld device powered by an electric current. Without the need for anaesthesia, the session done in only a few minutes. Another advantage is that there are almost no scars left. However, electrocautery is only effective for the removal of small, flat moles. The price runs around $100 and more.
- Laser Treatment Options
If you want a non-surgical and almost painless procedure, then a laser mole removal treatment may be your best bet. Similar to electrocautery, it can only be done on flat, superficial moles. The same principle is used wherein the problematic tissue is heated using a laser instead of an electric current. The heat, in turn, destroys the skin cells which are naturally flushed out by the body during recovery. A scab will form around the area but it will eventually fall off. Each laser session will lighten the pigmentation, and 2 to 3 appointments may be required to fully remove the mole. Laser treatments cost about $150 to $450 per session. The price depends on the number, size and shape of the tissue to be disposed of.
Q: Why do I have so many moles?
A: Why moles appear on our bodies isn’t quite clear yet. Scientists believe the main cause is a combination of sun damage and genetic factors. Sometimes hormonal changes can trigger the problem.
Q: Does removing a mole cause cancer?
A: No. Even if it turns out to be cancerous after all, the disease will not spread to other areas. Keep in mind that only a professional can get the job done properly, though.
Q: Can I freeze a mole at home?
A: You should never attempt to remove a mole at home under any circumstances, whether by freezing it or by scraping it off. All related procedures ought to be performed by a doctor. They will apply liquid nitrogen on the treated area and then pick off the mole. The downside of this option is that sometimes a blister will form after the manipulation, but the good news is it will resolve on its own.
Q: Will the mole grow back after removal?
A: If the mole is shaved off, it might grow back at some point but luckily, that’s not always the case. Truth is, it’s hard to predict what will happen.
Q: Can I shower after mole removal?
A: Wait for 24 hours until you wet the treated area. However, be sure to leave the dressings on so as not to let water directly into the wound. Also, avoid swimming, hot tubs, and baths for seven days after the treatment.
Mole removal in Singapore can be done for a variety of reasons and there are procedures that can cater to your specific needs. Even if it’s just for cosmetic reasons, talk to your aesthetic doctor first. This is the best way to ensure that your needs are taken into consideration when choosing a procedure.