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 are not cancer. However, a type of skin cancer called melanoma sometimes starts in a mole. Warning signs of cancer include the mole:
See a doctor if you have a mole that has changed.
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"):
Atypical moles tend to run in families. People with even a few atypical moles are more likely to get melanoma.
Have a doctor look at a mole if it:
Most moles are harmless and don’t need treatment. Your doctor can remove moles that are uncomfortable.
Your doctor will:
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:
If you're at higher risk for melanoma, doctors may want you to:
Because skin damage caused by the sun increases your risk for melanoma (as well as other skin cancers), make sure you: