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.
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.
In this Article
- Moles facts
- What are moles?
- What causes moles, and what are risk factors for developing moles?
- What types of moles are there?
- What are liver spots or age spots?
- What are seborrheic keratoses?
- Who is more prone to getting moles?
- Does having more moles increase one's chance of getting melanoma?
- Do moles ever disappear spontaneously?
- Which skin cancers look like moles?
- How can moles be prevented?
- How can moles be treated? What are different types of mole removal?
- Is there a blood test or X-ray to diagnose moles?
- Find a local Doctor in your town
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."
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