Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Skin Moles Anatomy

To better understand skin moles, it helps to understand the anatomy of the skin.

The skin contains three main layers:

  • Epidermis:
    • The superficial layer that makes up the surface of the skin
    • It is composed of skin cells and can be divided into 5 layers based on cell type.
    • The top layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum, is made of dead, flat skin cells that shed about every 2 weeks.
    • The thickness of the epidermis varies, according to location: it is very thick over the soles of the feet, and very thin over the ears.
  • Dermis:
    • Lies beneath the epidermis
    • Also varies in thickness depending on the location of the skin. It is .3 mm on the eyelid and 3.0 mm on the back.
    • The dermis is composed of 2 layers that contain a connective tissue called collagen
    • The dermis contains blood vessels, nerves, sweat glands, and hair follicles.
    • The number of structures in the dermis varies, according to location.
    • The dermis under the arms contains more sweat glands and hair follicles than the dermis on the back.
  • Subcutaneous layer:
    • Mainly fat and connective tissue.
    • Contains blood vessels and nerves.

Last Updated: Jan 4, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Skin Moles References
  1. Muhn CY, From L, Glied M. Detection of artificial changes in mole size by skin self-examination. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2000 May;42(5 Pt 1):754-9. [10775850]
  2. Seidenari S, Pellacani G, Grana C. Colors in atypical nevi: a computer description reproducing clinical assessment. Skin Res Technol. 2005 Feb;11(1):36-41. [15691257]
  3. Tilliss TS. Examination of skin moles. Am J Dent. 1997 Aug;10(4):164-5. [9590901]
  4. Weinstock MA, Nguyen FQ, Martin RA. Enhancing skin self-examination with imaging: evaluation of a mole-mapping program. J Cutan Med Surg. 2004 Jan-Feb;8(1):1-5. [15688095]
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