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In its derivation and widest meaning a naevus is a mark or blemish on the body. The term is
more often restricted, however, to a tumour consisting of blood vessels usually appearing on the skin as a "strawberry mark." It is dealt with fully under the heading Birthmark. As a rule naevi are quite harmless.
The term mole from the Latin moles, a, mass, is used in two distinct meanings. In one the word denotes a mass occurring in the womb as the result of an arrested pregnancy. More commonly, however, the term mole is applied to a tumour appearing in the skin at birth and forming an important variety of birth mark.
Moles form definite tumours in the skin, the cells composing the mass containing minute grains of black pigment; hence they are often known as pigment moles. Occasionally they are provided with long hairs and the term hairy mole is used instead. In both varieties, however, the cells contain more or less pigment.
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They vary from the size of a pin's head to an unsightly mass covering several square inches, and no part of the body is immune. As a rule, they are quite harmless, apart. from the disfigurement they cause. But it occasionally happens that after many years they assume malignant growth. The mole enlarges, ulcerates and bleeds, and the neighboring lymph glands become enlarged from deposits from the original mole carried there by the lymphatic vessels. Finally black tumours similar to the mole in their minute structure are disseminated throughout the body, with a fatal result.
Hence pigmented moles are best removed, and best by excision, the resulting gap in the skin being made good by plastic surgery (q.v.). In small moles the edges of the gap can easily be brought together, and thus a linear scar, in time scarcely visible, will replace the blemish.
Other methods sometimes employed are freezing it with carbon dioxide snow (q.v.) or burning it with the cautery. Large moles are sometimes treated by a combination of one of these methods with excision.