Is it a mole or skin tag? Do you know the difference?
It doesn't seem to matter which one you have. They both have a way of making you feel ugly. Probably because evil witches in movies always have moles on their noses. And remember that Austin Powers movie? You know - the one where Austin can't take his eyes off that MOLE? (The clip below is a long one. It's there for there for comic relief, but it illustrates my point WELL!)
I'm not being fair though. Cindy Crawford has a mole and it looks GREAT. Marilyn Monroe had one too. I think we can all agree they're both beautiful women. I wish for all my readers (and myself!), beautiful moles like those - instead of the one in Austin Powers!
Is it a mole or skin tag? Below are some guidelines to help you tell the difference - and I'll tell you the typical treatment options for both.
What's a skin tag?
It's a non-cancerous skin tumor. They don’t cause problems unless repeatedly rubbed or scratched. Initially, skin tags look like small pinhead bumps on the skin. Later they enlarge and start to look smooth or lumpy. Skin tags can be flesh colored or light brown in color and sometimes have a narrow stalk. They're generally small, but some grow as large as ½ an inch in diameter.
A skin tag occurs in areas of the body with skin creases and folds (eyelids, armpits, neck, under the breasts, groin and upper chest) and is thought to be caused by skin rubbing against skin. Skin tags are extremely common and usually occur in middle age.
Skin tags are extremely common in people older than 60. Statistics released by the National Institutes of Health, USA, say that 46% of people have skin tags. Heredity is thought to be a factor. People with relatives who have skin tags are more likely to have skin tags themselves. They seem to affect both women and men equally.
MedicalNewsToday.com says people who have the following conditions are at a higher risk for skin tags:
- People who are overweight
- Pregnant women
- People with HPV (human papilloma virus)
- People who illegally use steroids
Drugs.com explains that skin tags are easy to tell from moles because of their characteristic appearance: "soft, easily movable, flesh colored or slightly darker, and usually attached to the skin surface by a stalk. If you notice that a skin growth is too firm to be wiggled easily, is a different color than the surrounding skin and is multicolored or has raw or bleeding areas, ask your doctor to examine it."
There are several ways to remove skin tags:
- Cauterization, the skin tag is burned off using electrolysis/micro-cautery / radiofrequency.
- Cryosurgery, the skin tag is frozen off
- Ligation, the blood flow to the skin tag is interrupted
- Excision, the skin tag is cut off with a scalpel
So what's a mole?
The American Academy of Dermatology defines a mole as one color, usually brown, but can be tan, black, red, pink, blue, skin-toned or colorless. They are round in shape, flat or slightly raised and look the same from month to month.
Your moles may not look alike. Moles can have hair and some will change slowly over time. They can appear anywhere on the skin, even under your nails. Moles may darken after exposure to the sun, during your teenage years or in pregnancy. They can range in size from small dots to more than an inch, but most are less than ¼ of an inch in diameter.
The MayoClinic.org website says, “Moles are caused when cells in the skin, called melanocytes, grow in clusters or clumps. Melanocytes are distributed throughout your skin and produce melanin, the natural pigment that gives your skin its color.” Moles are common; almost every adult has some. It's normal for light skinned adults to have anywhere from 10-40.
Most moles are harmless. However, if one starts to bleed, itch, change, or grow, you should see a doctor right away. Moles are generally excised, or cut off; then your doctor may then send the mole for analysis to ensure it wasn't cancerous. If you have an Austin Powers mole (or see changes in a Cindy Crawford mole) that needs to be removed, it should always be done by your dermatologist or family physician.
Look for the ABCDEs of melanoma, a type of skin cancer:
- Asymmetry, one half is not the same as the other
- Border, the edges are irregularly shaped, scalloped or poorly defined
- Color, the color is not the same throughout the mole
- Diameter, melanomas are usually larger than 6 mm in diameter, but they can be smaller
- Evolving, any change in size, shape or color
Everyone should see a doctor for yearly skin cancer checks!
If you'd like to know more about more methods of skin rejuvenation/restoration, check out our blog post, You’ve decided to do some skin rejuvenation, but how do you decide what to work on first? AND Micro-Needling Is Better - 9 Reasons Why.
Amy Takken, RN
Amy Takken is a registered nurse with 20+ years of experience helping people improve their health. Her in-depth skincare articles have been featured on Nazarian Plastic Surgery and The Palm Beach Center for Facial Plastic & Laser Surgery. Amy loves research and constantly watches for new products and treatments to help you improve your skin’s health – because healthy skin is beautiful! To reach Amy, visit our contact page.
Masterpiece Skin Restoration is your online resource for all things medical aesthetics, skincare, beauty, and wellness. We keep you up to date on leading edge technology and the services available to help you restore your natural beauty.
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Hope you've enjoyed our Mole or Skin Tag post! Thanks for reading!
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The Information provided on our website is not medical advice and should not be viewed as such. By law, only a medical doctor can diagnose or give medical advice. As a registered nurse, my goal is to educate, so I provide information on skin care, skin care products, and skin care treatments. If you have any condition that concerns you, please see a medical doctor. While most skin conditions are benign, some - like melanoma - can be deadly. If there is any doubt, please, please consult your physician. Thank you!