What are moles?
Moles are a common form of skin pigmentation and appear on the face and body due to sun exposure. They are made up of clusters of pigmented cells called melanin. They start to appear in childhood and stay with us to adulthood. The more sun exposure we get, the more moles we have. In a way they are unique to every individual.
Most moles are harmless and are mainly cosmetic in appearance. Some however may change in appearance and become cancerous. As our climate is relatively sunny all year round, it is important to monitor moles and other pigmented patches to watch for early signs of skin cancer, especially malignant melanoma.
Risk factors for developing skin cancers include:
- frequent exposure to UV radiation
- inadequate use of sun block with resultant sun burn
- fair skinned complexion (Fitzpatrick type 1-3), where skin burns or flushes easily instead of tans
- frequent use of sun tanning beds
Other types of pigmentation that closely resembles moles but are harmless include:
- Hori's naevus, which appears symmetrically on cheeks and is hereditary
- Seborrheic keratosis which appear like crusty brown patches
- Solar lentigines (age or liver spots)
What to look out for when screening for skin cancer:
- A change in appearance of a mole, i.e. it grows larger over a short span of time, changes in colour
- It begins to look unusual, its shape becomes distorted and the borders become irregular or jagged
- Its colour changed or it begins to bleed, ulcerates
These are warning signs that a mole may be cancerous. It is best to seek the immediate attention of a skin doctor or specialist.
Steps to prevent skin cancer
Given our close proximity to the equator and sunny climate, there is a need to protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation which can cause aging and skin cancers.
- Avoid peak sun times. In Singapore,the sun\'s rays are strongest between 10am and 2pm. Schedule outdoor activities for other times of the day, even on cloudy days.
- Use sunscreen year-round. Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outdoors, even on cloudy days. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply it generously and reapply every two hours - or more often if you\'re swimming or sweating. Taking oral sun protection pills help to protect the whole body and face from sunburn. When taken in the morning, it protects the skin for 4 continuous hours. It is proven to be a safe and effective way to prevent the appearance of pigmentation.You may also purchase your sunscreens from our online store.
- Cover up. Sunglasses, broad-brimmed hats, long sleeves and other protective clothing can help you avoid damaging UV rays. You might also want to consider clothing that\'s made with fabric specially treated to block UV radiation.
- Avoid tanning lamps and beds. Tanning lamps and beds emit UV rays and can increase your risk of skin cancer.
Ways to treat moles and other forms of pigmentation
Q Switch Laser
Q Switch laser works to create microscopic holes in the epidermal layer of the skin to allow the laser light to target excess melanin and break it down for removal by body. It enhances the body\'s natural process of renewal and ensures that new skin form is uniformly clear and free from pigmentation. It also stimulates collagen renewal and rejuvenates the skin.
Electrocautery is a procedure that uses an electric current to burn off the mole pigment in layers. This is done over 2-3 treatments to reduced the risk of scarring. During recovery, absolute avoidance of the sun exposure is necessary to prevent re-activation of pigment cells producing post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).
We usually apply a numbing cream during treatment. You will feel a scratching sensation.