Skin Tag and Mole Removal
Skin tags are small flesh-coloured or brown growths that hang off the skin and look a bit like warts. They are very common and harmless. Skin tags are usually a few millimetres in size, although can be as big as 5cm. They are usually found on the neck, in the armpits, around the groin, or under the breasts. They can also grow on the eyelids or under the folds of the buttocks. The medical name for skin tags is acrochordons.
Why skin tags occur
Anyone can develop skin tags, but they are particularly common in older people. Some people develop them for no apparent reason. It is thought skin tags grow where skin rubs against skin or clothing. This would explain why they tend to affect overweight people who have excess folds of skin and skin chafing.
When skin tags can be a problem
Skin tags are harmless and do not usually cause pain or discomfort. However, you may want to consider getting them removed if they are unsightly and affect your self-esteem, or if they snag on clothing or jewellery and bleed. Sometimes, skin tags fall off on their own if the tissue has twisted and died from a lack of blood supply.
Removing skin tags
Skin tags can easily be burnt or frozen off in a similar way to how warts are removed. At Firvale Clinic Dr Berry will normally either cut them off or remove them with an electronic cauterisation method. Both procedures are carried out under local aesthetic and are quick with relatively low levels of patient discomfort.
Do not attempt to remove large skin tags yourself because they will bleed heavily.
Moles are small patches on the skin that form due to collections of cells called melanocytes, which produce the colour (pigment) in your skin. The scientific name for moles is melanocytic naevi. Moles are often a brownish colour, although some may be darker or skin-coloured. They can be flat or raised, smooth or rough, and some have hair growing from them. Moles are usually circular or oval with a smooth edge.
Moles can change in number and appearance. Some fade away over time, often without you realising. They also sometimes respond to hormonal changes, for example during:
- Pregnancy – when they may get slightly darker.
- Teenage years – when they increase in number.
- Older age – when they may disappear from 40 to 50 years of age onwards.
When do moles develop?
Some moles are present at birth, however most moles develop during the first 30 years of life. People with fair skin often have more moles than people with darker skin.
Most moles have a genetic cause and are inherited, this is often the case with people who have a lot of moles. Where you were brought up may also make a difference, for example, if you have spent a lot of time in the sun, you may have an increased number of small moles.
Most moles are completely harmless. However, they may be unsightly and affect your confidence. Moles can also be a nuisance, for example if they regularly catch on your clothing or you cut them while shaving. These moles can be surgically treated,
At Firvale Clinic if you are having a mole removed because it is a nuisance, Dr Berry may just require a minor procedure involving shaving the mole off so that it is level with your skin. This is known as a shave excision. The wound may then be closed with heat during a process called cauterisation. On occasion a deeper incision may have to be made but this too can easily be carried out at the Clinic.
All the removal procedures are carried out under local anesthetic to minimise any discomfort you may feel during the procedure.
If Dr Berry is concerned about the nature of the mole the clinic can take a biopsy for testing. During your treatment Dr Berry will inform you of any concerns she might have and should it be necessary you will be referred to the appropriate specialist consultant.
General Advice to Patients with Moles
Checking your skin
You should check your skin every few months for any new moles that develop (particularly after your teenage years, when new moles become less common) or any changes to existing moles. A mole can change in weeks or months.
Things to look for include:
- moles with uneven colouring – most moles only have one or two colours, but melanomas have lots of different shades
- moles with an uneven or ragged edge – moles are usually circular or oval with a smooth border
- bleeding, itching, red, inflamed (swollen) or crusty moles
- moles that get a lot bigger – most moles are no bigger than the width of a pencil
A helpful way to remember what to look for is to use the ABCDE method.
- A – asymmetry
- B – border irregularity
- C – colour change
- D – diameter
- E – elevated (raised) or enlarged
Moles like this can occur anywhere on your body, but most happen on the back, legs, arms and face.
If you notice any changes to your moles or are worried about them, see your Doctor. Changes to a mole may be an early indication of a type of skin cancer called melanoma.
While most moles are benign (non-cancerous), in rare cases they can develop into melanoma. Melanoma is a serious and aggressive form of skin cancer.
Melanomas usually appear as a dark, fast-growing spot where there was not one before, or a pre-existing mole that changes size, shape or colour and bleeds, itches or reddens.
The main treatment for melanoma is surgery, although your treatment will depend on your circumstances. If melanoma is diagnosed and treated at an early stage then surgery is usually successful, although you may need follow-up care to prevent melanoma recurring.
Preventing cancerous moles
If you have a lot of moles, it’s important to take extra care in the sun. Although it’s not always possible to prevent melanoma, avoiding overexposure to UV light can reduce your chances of developing it.
You can help protect yourself from sun damage if you:
- stay in the shade when the sun is at its strongest (between 11am and 3pm)
- cover up with clothes, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
- use a high-factor sunscreen (minimum SPF15) and reapply it regularly, particularly after swimming.
- avoid using sunlamps or sunbeds because they give out UV rays