Home Health & Wellness Skin Tags and Moles: What’s the Difference?

Skin Tags and Moles: What’s the Difference?

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A mole or skin tag can be caused by a variety of factors. There is a higher risk of cancer with one than with the other, though they are usually harmless.

The following information will guide you on what moles are, how they differ, and which one will stay harmless for the longest period of time.

What is a mole?

In benign tumours called moles, melanocytes produce darker pigments, called melanin, by producing clusters of skin cells. You can develop new moles as you age, unlike congenital moles, which are present at birth.

Symptoms of moles

The colour, shape, and texture of common moles tend to stay the same over time and are usually benign. The following are among them:

  • The border is well defined and round, with a symmetrical shape
  • Approximately 1/4 inch in diameter
  • Raised or flat
  • The mole is uniform in colour, which means that it is either brown, black, tan, pink, red, blue, or flesh-toned.

Dysplastic nevi, or atypical moles, may be flat or raised, but usually appear as:

  • Moles that have irregular shapes and irregular borders that blend into the skin around them
  • It is larger than a pencil eraser (larger than 1/4 inch)
  • An even surface, a bumpy surface, a rough surface, wrinkled skin, or a scaly surface
  • A combination of colors (for example, flesh-toned edges and brown centers)

Diagnosis

Moles are usually diagnosed by your doctor through a skin exam. An analysis of positive melanoma cases conducted in 2018 found that visual examinations were accurate in diagnosing 92.4 percent of all cases. Researchers cautioned, however, that visual exams alone may not be sufficient to detect melanomas due to limitations in their study data.

Visual exams combined with dermoscopy were more likely to result in negative cases in another 2018 systematic review and analysis.

Treatment

If it bothers you, irritates your skin, or is cancerous, your dermatologist can remove the mole surgically or by shaving.

What is a skin tag?

A skin tag is an outgrowth of flesh-toned or brownish colour that hangs from the surface of the skin. The polyps may be called fibroepithelial polyps or acrochordons by your doctor. Pedunculated skin tags are among the most common types of skin tags, featuring a narrow stalk. When you know the types of skin tags, you will be able to recognise and manage them more effectively.

Within thicker areas of skin, papules contain loose collagen fibers and ducts. The outer layer of the skin consists of nerves, fat cells, and epidermis.

Symptoms of skin tags

There are several places where skin tags form, including the neck, eyelids, and breasts, groins, and armpits. With narrow stalks and smooth or irregular caps, they resemble tiny mushrooms that form skin flaps or grow on short stems, called peduncles.

Initially, skin tags appear as small pinhead bumps, but they can become larger as time goes on. A lesson can be as small as 2 millimeters, or as large as 5 centimeters, depending on the size of the stem.

There is usually no pain or other symptoms associated with skin tags. Lesions that are large, however, may cause skin irritation and discomfort if they rub against one another.

The stalk of large skin tags can also become twisted and burst, causing pain and blood clots.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of skin tags is often made by a visual examination. A skin biopsy may be performed by your dermatologist to determine if the skin tag is cancerous.

Treatment

If you are experiencing skin irritation or cosmetic reasons, you can have skin tags removed.

Skin tags are most commonly removed with radiocautery. A radio wave is usually used to burn the lesion off in the doctor’s office.

In addition to cryotherapy, liquid nitrogen can also be used to freeze off skin tags.

What to look for when choosing a dermatologist

You may find it helpful to follow these tips when choosing a dermatologist:

  • Referrals based on your skin health needs can be obtained from your primary care physician.
  • Check credentials and training in fellowships or subspecialties.
  • Consider your gender, age, skin type, and color, as well as the experience they have treating similar conditions.
  • Make sure they align with your expectations when it comes to communication style and bedside manner.
  • Find out more about your doctor’s practice style and office operations by reading online reviews posted by current and former patients.
  • Discover which treatments your insurance covers and how many you will have to pay out of pocket.

How do moles and skin tags differ?

Moles tend to be rooted deeper within the skin than skin tags, which form on the surface of the skin. Skin tags cannot grow hair, but moles can.

Some moles can turn into melanoma if they are precancerous, which is what really sets them apart from skin tags. The majority of skin tags are benign (noncancerous).

How do moles and skin tags develop?

Moles and skin tags may be more common in some people due to certain risk factors.

Moles: risk factors

There is potential risk of congenital and atypical moles when NRAS and BRAF genes are mutated, according to research published in 2020.

Moles that are acquired or atypical are also at risk from sun damage.

Skin tags: risk factors

A person is more likely to develop skin tags if they:

  • Aged
  • Obese or overweight
  • Diabetes patient
  • Viruses that cause human papilloma
  • An imbalance between sex and steroids
  • Skin tags are common in close family members

Additionally, they have been linked to:

  • Adolescent and pregnancy hormone changes
  • The cholesterol level is high
  • The blood pressure is high
  • Hyperthyroidism is another metabolic issue
  • The acanthosis of the nigricans

What are the effects of moles and skin tags on people?

The majority of moles and skin tags can be treated without causing any complications.

Are moles dangerous?

The majority of moles do not require treatment, even if they are benign. Even so, moles are still at risk for developing melanoma. Most benign moles become cancerous between 25 and 33 percent of the time.

Furthermore, people with a history of multiple sunburns are more likely to die from melanoma if they have more acquired moles. There is no evidence that melanoma risk can be reduced by removing moles.

Do you know what to do if you have skin tags?

It is possible to grow skin tags from friction caused by clothing rubbing against the skin. There are several office and outpatient procedures that can successfully remove them.

Can you prevent moles or skin tags?

Despite the fact that moles and skin tags cannot be completely prevented, there are things you can do to minimize their size and health impact.

Preventing moles

Moles may not be completely preventable. However, you can practice sun safety habits to reduce the likelihood of developing new moles.

A 2020 study found that your skin’s DNA can also be damaged by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. A new mole can develop or an existing one can become melanoma because of this.

The goal is to:

  • The UV rays are strongest at midday, so avoid sun exposure then.
  • Every two hours, or more frequently if it wears off when you sweat or go swimming, apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30.
  • Don hats with wide brims and sunglasses to protect yourself from UV rays.
  • Keep tanning lamps and beds away from your skin.
  • Have your doctor evaluate any moles that are concerning on a regular basis.

Preventing skin tags

In addition, skin tags may not be preventable, but your doctor can suggest ways to manage health conditions that increase their risk. Among the strategies are:

  • Weight loss, if necessary
  • Eating a wholesome diet that emphasizes:
    • A greater variety of whole foods
    • Reduced sugar content
    • Hydration is essential
  • Exercise and fitness should be a priority
  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule

Takeaway

There are a variety of types of skin growths, including skin tags and moles, and they are generally harmless. Cancerous moles are sometimes found on moles.

They also differ in their causes. When pigment-forming cells cluster together, skin tags can form, while moles can develop when things rub against the skin repeatedly.

It is usually not necessary to treat skin tags and moles. If they cause pain or irritation or if it is for aesthetic reasons that a person desires their removal, a doctor or dermatologist can do so.

Moles that are suspected to be precancerous or cancerous may be removed by a doctor.




Samantha Green, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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