Skin tags and moles are two very common skin lesions which affect people of all ages. For the most part, they are not harmful in any way but some moles can lead to skin cancer and should be checked regularly for any warning signs. But how does a person know whether they have a skin tag or mole?
Skin tags a small, flesh colored flaps of skin which are attached to the body by a small stalk. They are invariably benign (non-cancerous). They are made up of skin cells, collagen and blood.
Causes of skin tags include:
- Friction – Skin on skin rubbing is thought to be a main cause for skin tags. This goes someway to explaining why they are commonly found in areas beneath the arms, the neck, buttock creases, stomach creases, behind the knees and on the eyelids.
- Type 2 diabetes – The disease can cause a person to become overweight which in turn may cause more ripples and folds in the skin. There has also been some evidence to suggest that there is a connection with skin tags and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is one of the first early signs of this particular form of diabetes and it has been found that by treating this particular symptom, skin tags seem to disappear as well.
- Hormones – Hormone imbalances may play a role in the over production of collagen which may lead to skin tags. Also, there is a strong link between the female hormone and the skin lesions.
Unlike skin tags, moles differ in color to the surrounding skin. They tend to be a dark brown or black color although in some cases they could have different hues such as red, yellow, blue or green. Moles vary in size and shape but for the most part are small, round or oval and either flat or raised from the skin.
There are moles which may lead to melanoma a particularly aggressive form of skin cancer. People with congenital and atypical moles are at higher risk.
Moles are essentially a collection or cluster of melanocytes. These are melanin producing skin cells which are normally spread throughout the body, giving it the pigment which provides color to the hair and skin. In the case of moles though, the cells form groups and an excessive amount of melanin is produced in one area, giving the moles their darker color. Causes of this type of skin lesion include:
- Sun exposure – Sunlight on the skin causes more melanin to be produced. This can cause new moles to appear or existing moles to become darker and/or larger.
- Genetics – Some people are born with congenital moles or atypical mole syndrome. Atypical moles can be anywhere up to 20cm and over in diameter, with jagged borders and uneven color. Both groups are more prone to becoming cancerous.
Telling the Difference
The main way to know whether a person has a skin tag or mole is to look at the color of it. Skin tags are invariably the same color as the surrounding flesh. If the skin tag is causing a problem for a person, they may remove it without fear of the lesion containing cancerous cells. Moles, however should be checked thoroughly before the correct procedure is chosen to remove them if that is what the person would wish for.