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Is It Normal for a Mole to Change During Pregnancy?


It is a widely held belief, even among some doctors, that it's normal for moles to change during pregnancy. In actuality, there are no convincing studies to support this belief.

A mole is the common name for a brown or reddish-brown growth on the skin known as a melanocytic nevus. They can develop at birth, but more commonly appear in the first two to three decades of a person's life. New moles that develop after the age of 35, or any mole that changes in color, size or shape, especially after childhood, should be viewed suspiciously.

Although many skin growths, such as brown scaly growths, called seborrehic keratoses, are commonly mistaken for moles, true moles (that is melanocytic nevi) should not change. If they do change, then they might actually be melanoma, a potentially deadly skin cancer that develops from the pigment cells in your skin.

There are many changes that happen to a woman's skin when she is pregnant, mostly because of dramatic shifts in her hormones. For instance, increases in estrogen levels sensitize a woman's skin to the sun. When women with brown or olive skin are pregnant and are exposed to significant sun, the pigment cells on their face become active, producing noticeable brown splotches called melasma.

Increased estrogen can also cause the development of a straight, brown line on a pregnant woman's belly, called linea nigra. Pregnant women also commonly develop benign growths, such as red dilated blood vessels, called angiomas, and fleshy growths on the neck, bra-line or underarms called skin tags.

Despite all these changes, moles do not typically change during pregnancy. So why does it seem to many people that they do?

It might be that because other skin changes occur in pregnancy, people assume it is normal for moles to change, as well. Also, since women's skin stretches during pregnancy, moles might appear to be growing. This is not the same as a mole actually changing.

According to a review published in the December 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, moles do not normally change over the course of pregnancy.

If you notice that a mole has changed in color, size, border or dimension either during pregnancy or anytime, for that matter, then you should see a physician for it to be examined and possibly biopsied.

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