Moles are sometimes called “beauty marks,” yet can also develop into deadly melanomas. But do you know what a mole actually is? And more importantly, what it can do to you?
On DermTV, I’ve talked about easy ways to identify precancerous moles, the surprising news that tiny moles can become melanomas, and even how moles are surgically removed. But to better put this all into perspective, today I’m going to explain to you just what a mole is and why that’s important to you.
In your epidermis, the upper layer of your skin…
…there are essentially only three types of cells. First are basal cells, which are kind of square in shape and are lined up in a row on the bottom layer of the epidermis.
Then, interspersed between every five to 10 basal cells are these special cells called melanocytes...
Melanocytes make melanin, your brown pigment. But when melanocytes aggregate together into a cluster or a clump, instead of occurring as a single cell occasionally wedged between basal cells, they form into a brown mole. And to avoid confusion, the medical term for a mole is a nevus. They mean the same thing.
Now, most moles are classified into three different types.
When the cluster of melanocytes are only in the basal layer…
…then your mole is flat. You can’t feel it, but you know it’s there because of its color: from light tan to dark brown. And since these moles are on the bottom layer of the epidermis, at the border of the lower, second layer of your skin called the dermis...
...these moles are called “junctional” moles.
But if the cluster of melanocytes is down here in the dermis…
…then it’s called an “intradermal mole”. Most raised moles are intradermal, usually dome shaped. They can be skin colored or brown and often have hairs growing out from them.
And if the cluster of melanocytes is in both layers...
...epidermis and dermis, then it’s a “compound mole”, which is also raised and with similar colors to intra dermal moles… but flatter and not as dome shaped.
So why is all of this important to you? Because it’s the flat moles that many deadly melanoma skin cancers come from. In fact, most people think the raised moles are the dangerous ones, but THEY are essentially harmless… You really need to watch out for the flat ones… by getting your skin checked annually by a dermatologist to detect abnormal ones and have them removed before they can become a melanoma.
Your take away here shouldn’t be how to diagnose skin cancer. Instead, it’s for you to better understand moles and understand why it’s so important to get even those “harmless” beauty marks checked regularly.
Now for today's skincare trivia! Answer today's question correctly and you'll be entered in a drawing to win a free skincare product! Submit your answer at DermTV Dot Com Slash Trivia, within three days of this episode's airing. Today's question is:
I discussed two of the three types of skin cells found in the epidermis in this episode. What is the third type?
And while you can find the answers to most DermTV Trivia questions in DermTV episodes, you may have to look outside for the answer to today's question.