Most adults averaging between 10 and 40 moles on their bodies. Moles typically begin to appear from early childhood until about age 40. Existing moles that have changed in shape, size or texture could be an early sign of melanoma. In children, moles which are dome shaped, bleed, or are abnormally large should be examined by a dermatologist.
Also referred to as dysplastic, atypical moles are those which are larger than a pencil eraser, are not perfectly round, and have more than one color. While not uncommon, these should be watched closely as they could be indicative of melanoma in a patient. Be especially wary if 4 or more atypical moles appear in an area or if you or a close relative has been previously diagnosed with melanoma.
If a mole is present at birth, it is called a congenital mole. Depending on their size, they also have a higher risk of developing skin cancer. They sometimes grow with the child and dermatologists may remove them as a preventative measure taken against the onset of cancer. Removing the mole through excision is done after a biopsy in which the doctor takes a tissue sample from the mole and checks for cancer or precancerous warning signs under a microscope.
Named for the pathologist Sophie Spitz who discovered them, spitz nevus are pinkish in color with raised, dome-shaped borders and they cannot be differentiated from melanoma simply by looking at them.