It’s only human to occasionally scrutinize the various spots, marks, and growths that appear on our skin over time. After all, our skin is a dynamic canvas that continually evolves in response to a myriad of factors ranging from aging to environmental influences.
Two of the most common skin anomalies that people encounter are skin tags and moles.
While they may seem similar at first glance, there are significant differences that are worth understanding.
The Basics: What Are They?
Skin tags, medically known as acrochordons, are soft, benign growths that appear on areas of the skin that are prone to friction. They often develop in places where the skin rubs against other skin or clothing, such as the eyelids, armpits, and groin. Composed primarily of collagen fibers and blood vessels, skin tags are typically flesh-colored and can range in size from a grain of rice to the size of a large pea.
Moles, or nevi, are a more complex skin phenomenon. They are small, usually dark, skin growths that result from a concentration of melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells in the skin. Moles can occur anywhere on the body and may vary in size, shape, and color. Unlike skin tags, moles have the potential to evolve into melanoma, a form of skin cancer, making them of greater concern from a medical standpoint.
Origins: Where Do They Come From?
Skin Tags: A Product of Friction
The development of skin tags is commonly attributed to constant friction. Individuals who are overweight, pregnant, or aging are often more prone to developing skin tags due to skin folds and chafing. Additionally, hormonal fluctuations and genetic predisposition can also contribute to their formation.
Moles: More Than Skin Deep
The factors influencing the formation of moles are more intricate and not completely understood. Genetics play a significant role, and sun exposure is also a contributing factor. Unlike skin tags, moles can develop early in life and may change in appearance over time.
Appearance and Symmetry
Skin tags are often smooth and somewhat wrinkled. Their texture is not uniform and can be irregular, especially as they grow in size. Moles, on the other hand, are typically smooth but can have a variety of appearances including flat or raised, round or oval.
Symmetry and Borders
Moles are generally symmetrical, and dermatologists use asymmetry as a criterion for assessing potential malignancy. Skin tags usually lack this symmetrical nature, but that’s less of a concern since they are benign.
When to Seek Medical Advice
While skin tags are mostly harmless, it’s advisable to consult a dermatologist if you notice any changes in size, color, or shape, or experience pain or bleeding.
Moles require more rigorous scrutiny.
A change in size, color, shape, or any other unusual characteristic could be an early sign of melanoma and should be immediately evaluated by a medical professional.
Skin tag removal is usually a simple procedure involving excision, cryotherapy, or electrocautery.
Mole removal may involve similar methods but often requires a biopsy to determine if cancerous cells are present.
Knowledge as a Tool
Understanding the distinctions between skin tags and moles is not merely an exercise in dermatological trivia.
It is a vital part of body awareness, equipping you to take proactive steps in managing your skin health.
Recognizing what’s normal and what warrants medical attention could make a significant difference in catching potential skin issues early. It’s your skin—knowing it well is the first step in taking good care of it.