What are moles?
Moles are small skin growths that can be anywhere on your body. They are usually dark in color and are round or oval. Almost everyone has some moles.
Moles often first appear when you are a child or teenager
They don't go away on their own
Moles don't hurt or itch
They don’t usually need treatment, unless they bother you
Moles are not cancer. However, a type of skin cancer called melanoma Melanoma Melanoma is a skin cancer that begins in the pigment-producing cells of the skin (melanocytes). Melanomas can begin on normal skin or in existing moles. They may be irregular, flat or raised... read more sometimes starts in a mole. Warning signs of cancer include the mole:
See a doctor if you have a mole that has changed.
What do moles look like?
Vary in size, from small dots to more than one inch (about 2 1/2 centimeters) across
Are symmetric, meaning if you were to draw a line down the middle, both halves would look the same
Are round or oval
May be flat or raised, smooth or rough, or have hairs growing from them
May be red at first but often turn tan, yellow, brown, blue-gray, or nearly black
Moles that are unusual ("atypical moles"):
Tend to be more than one color, especially brown and tan with a pink background
Have irregular shapes and edges
Are often bigger than other moles on your body
Usually show up on skin that gets sun but can be anywhere on your body
Atypical moles tend to run in families. People with even a few atypical moles are more likely to get melanoma.
When should I see a doctor about a mole?
Have a doctor look at a mole if it:
Becomes painful or itchy
Changes shape, grows, or is wider than a pencil eraser
Changes color, has unusual colors, or is darker or differently colored than your other moles
Isn't the same shape on both sides
Has borders that aren’t round or oval
Appears when you're age 30 or older
How do doctors treat moles?
Most moles are harmless and don’t need treatment. Your doctor can remove moles that are uncomfortable.
Your doctor will:
Look closely at your moles
Check if an atypical mole is cancerous by looking at a piece of it under a microscope (biopsy)
Do surgery to remove the mole (if it is cancerous) and the skin around the mole
How can I prevent melanoma?
Melanoma is a serious, life-threatening skin cancer. Check moles for any changes. Have a doctor look at any moles that have changed.
You are at higher risk for melanoma if you have:
More than 50 moles
A family member who has had melanoma
If you're at higher risk for melanoma, doctors may want you to:
Have your skin checked at least once a year by a dermatologist (a skin doctor)
Have any atypical moles that have changed removed right away
Because skin damage caused by the sun increases your risk for melanoma (as well as other skin cancers), make sure you:
Avoid sunburn and tanning
Avoid being out in the sun between 10:00 in the morning and 3:00 in the afternoon
Apply sunscreen to skin exposed to the sun
Wear a hat and clothing that protects you from the sun