Moles

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Skin Cancer Slideshow

What are liver spots or age spots?

Liver spots or age spots (lentigines) are the common names of the flat, brown, round spots seen in adults frequently on the back of the hands, shoulders, and face. Liver spots are not true moles or freckles. The term liver spot is actually a misnomer since these spots are not caused by liver problems or liver disease. While these do tend to appear over time, they are not in themselves a sign of old age. Instead, they appear on sun-exposed areas. They are commonly seen on the skin of older adults with a history of sun exposure. Liver spots are simply the result of a localized increase in the number of melanosomes (normal pigment-carrying particles in cells).

What are seborrheic keratoses?

Seborrheic keratoses (SK) contain melanin but do not contain increased numbers of melanocytes, so they are not melanocytic nevi. Seborrheic keratoses are caused by a benign growth of epidermal cells. Some people call these growths "barnacles" or "Rice Krispies." Although they are most often medium brown, they can differ in color, ranging anywhere from light tan to black. They occur in different sizes. Typically, these growths are around the size of a pencil eraser or slightly larger. Some keratoses begin as a flat marks and gradually raise and thicken to form a seborrheic keratosis. A biopsy may, in some cases, may be required to distinguish a seborrheic keratosis from an irregular mole or melanoma.

The telltale feature of a seborrheic keratosis is its waxy, stuck-on, greasy look. Seborrheic keratosis can almost be peeled or scraped off the skin while this is never true for melanocytic nevi. Seborrheic keratoses look like they have either been pasted on the skin or may look like a dab of melted brown candle wax that dropped on the skin. Seborrheic keratoses may occur in the same areas as moles. Seborrheic keratoses are also more common in areas of sun exposure but may also occur in sun-protected areas like the underwear area. When they first appear, the growths usually begin one at a time as small rough bumps. Eventually, they may thicken and develop a rough, warty surface. Seborrheic keratoses are quite common, especially after age 40. Almost everybody may eventually develop at least a few seborrheic keratoses during their lifetime. These growths are sometimes referred to as the "barnacles of old age."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/12/2015
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  • Moles - Risk Factors

    What are your risk factors for developing moles? Briefly describe your history and experience with moles.

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  • Moles - Seborrheic keratoses

    Are you prone to seborrheic keratoses? How do you have them treated?

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  • Moles - Melanoma

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  • Moles - Skin Cancers

    Have any of your moles been diagnosed as skin cancer? If so, what was the treatment?

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  • Moles - Testing

    Please discuss your experience with computerized mole-scan devices in identifying your mole types.

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  • Moles - Types

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