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Nevogenesis: Understanding skin moles and melanomas

Do you have a mole on your skin, or perhaps a birthmark? What happens when you see new colored marks on your skin?They can be quite scary. In dermatology, the study of the skin, one of such moles is called a nevus. It is actually Latin for birthmark. When a mole forms, it is through a process called of nevogenesis. In this process, one single skin cell will undergo a transforming event due to internal or external influences. This cell, called a nevus progenitor cell, sends signals to the surrounding cells to also transform into a nevus or skin mole. The question is whether these moles are precursors to a type of skin cancer called melanoma. A melanoma is a malignant, cancerous, tumor composed of melanocytes which are cells that contain our skin’s pigment color.

Not all skin moles are cancerous. Malignant melanomas contain no cancer cells. But, the production of moles and melanomas are both done through the same process of nevogenesis.

A skin mole is also called a congenital nevus. It is a proliferation of a certain type of skin cell called melanocytes.They are benign, which means noncancerous. Melanocytes contain the coloring pigment in our skin called melanin.

Moles come in all types of variations in size and color. They can be small, about the size of a pea, medium, about the size of a dime, or quite large, anything larger than a dime. Their colors can range from flesh colored to pink, tan to dark brown, or even blue to black. Small moles tend to be cancerous less than 10 percent of the time. If the moles begin to change shape or grow over time, this may be a sign of a precancerous melanoma.

Be wary of any itching, color change, or pain in your moles. Melanomas have very undefined borders and irregular shapes, while moles are more uniform in their shape. If you recognize any of these symptoms, it is important to have your mole looked at by your doctor or dermatologist. It is always a good idea to have a medical professional check out any new discoloration on your skin.

There have been many advances in the study of nevogenesis to determine the point at which a mole may become a malignant melanocyte. A 2005 study in the Journal of Dermatology reports that the extent of exposure to ultraviolet light in the B range (UVB) from the sun may trigger the microenvironment around melanocytes to become agitated and metastasize, or grow out of control. When cells metastasize, this is a sign of cancerous growth. But, the exact point of a mole becoming a malignant melanoma has yet to be discovered.

It is important to recognize thesespots on your body and monitor them. If they begin to change shape or size or exhibit new symptoms, ignoring them is not the answer. There is a better chance of healing from cancer when it is detected early.

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing