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Moles are brown or black growths on the skin that can appear anywhere in the skin. They are usually benign (non-cancerous) clusters of special pigmented cells called melanocytes, which may or may not change in size, shape and color.

Some people are not bothered by the presence of moles, but other people want to have them removed for cosmetic reasons or when they cause irritation because of their location. For example, a woman would want a mole on the nose removed to enhance her beauty and a man would want a mole on the cheek removed because it often gets irritated whenever he shaves. Still, some people have too many moles and prefer to have some of them removed.

Although most moles are harmless, some moles change and become malignant (cancerous).

Suspicious changes include rapid changes in color, shape and size, bleeding, oozing, and pain. Immediate medical consultation is needed to evaluate this type of moles.

Mole removal is usually done by dermatologists or surgeons, and this may involve either cutting out the mole (excision) or burning it away (cauterization). Excision with laser has also been done, but it is not always effective for deep moles.

Non-surgical means of mole removal have also been tried, including the use of a product called DermaTend. The cream, which contains an extract from the plant called Sanguinaria Canadensis, is applied directly on the mole, which later falls off naturally. It works by penetrating to the root of the mole and attracting an immune system response that results in the removal of the mole and and beginning of the healing process. This sounds natural, easy and safe, but the manufacturer's claims have not been evaluated by the FDA.

The risks of mole removal include bleeding, infection and scarring. One must remember, too, that it is best to have your mole checked by a dermatologist to make sure that it is not cancerous and is safe for removal. If a mole is suspicious for cancer the doctor may take a small sample of the mole (biopsy) to have it examined under a microscope to verify the diagnosis. A suspicious mole is often removed by the dermatologist or surgeon.

After mole removal, it is advisable to clean the area and apply an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection. Consult a doctor if persistent bleeding, oozing, fever, or foul-smelling discharge is observed, because these may be signs of an infection.

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