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Moles are growths on the skin that are usually brown or black. They are formed by clusters of melanocytes, the pigmented cells responsible for your skin color. Moles typically appear during the first 30 years of life, can be flat or raised, and can darken with sun exposure, puberty, or pregnancy. If a mole appears suspicious to the provider, they will likely recommend a biopsy. If a mole is determined to be “atypical,” the provider may recommend an additional procedure (excision) to remove a bit more of the tissue.
The top layer of skin is shaved off with a small blade. This procedure is generally used to diagnose nonmelanoma skin conditions such as actinic keratosis and basal and squamous cell carcinoma. Stitches are not required and bleeding is minimal.
The doctor uses a tool that looks like a tiny round cookie cutter to remove a deeper layer of the skin. If a large sample is taken, one or two stitches may be needed.
An incisional biopsy involves removing a small sample of a lesion with a scalpel. An excisional biopsy removes the entire lesion with a scalpel. Stitches are used to close the wound.