What are Moles?

Moles are growths on the skin caused by a cluster of melanocytes, often appearing brown or black. Moles usually appear during early childhood, leaving the average adult with 10-40 moles on their body. Moles are more common in those who have lighter skin, spend more time in the sun, or due to genetics. Most moles are nothing to be concerned about, but some can be a sign of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States.

Moles can sometimes be cancerous or precancerous, meaning they have the potential to turn into cancer. The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma, often appearing as a flesh-colored bump on areas of the skin that are highly exposed to the sun. Also quite common is squamous cell carcinoma, appearing as a bumpy, scaling patch of red skin. The type of skin cancer that causes the most concern is melanoma. Melanoma has a high survival rate if the cancerous mole is detected early.

Indentifying Moles

To help you remember when a mole is dangerous, you can follow the ABCDE’s of melanoma including:

  • Asymmetry – when one half of a mole does not look like the other
  • Border Irregularity – a mole with a jagged or poorly defined border
  • Color – a mole that does not have one uniform color throughout
  • Diameter – a mole that exceeds 6mm, about the size of a pencil eraser
  • Evolving – a mole that changes in size, shape, or color and does not look like the rest

If you notice any of these signs, a new mole, or one that exhibits rapid change, you should contact Seattle Skin & Laser right away for an examination.

Mole Removal & Preventing Skin Cancer

When a mole is suspected cancerous, or if a mole is bothersome to the patient, surgical removal can be performed. If a mole is suspected to be cancerous, a partial or complete biopsy will be performed and sent to the lab for testing. If the test comes back cancerous, the mole and some surrounding tissue will be removed until no more cancer is detected. If cancer has spread to surrounding tissue, your dermatologist might refer you for further treatment.

The best way to avoid skin cancer is to limit exposure to the sun, avoid tanning bed, and always use sunscreen when outside.

Frequently Asked Questions About Moles

Are moles genetic?

It’s not completely understood how genetics play a role in mole development. However, if members of your family have lots of moles, it’s likely that they’ll be passed down.

Can a dermatologist tell if a mole is cancerous?

Yes. Your dermatologist can look at your mole to determine if a biopsy is needed to confirm that cancerous cells are present.

Can a mole itch and not be cancer?

A mole can be itchy just like normal skin even when it’s not cancer. However, if itchiness accompanies other signs like crusting or bleeding, you should see your dermatologist right away.

Can moles be oval shaped?

Yes. Moles can be round, oval-shaped, and even have a raised texture.

How do doctors check if a mole is cancerous?

Your dermatologist will look for some telltale signs that your mole may be cancerous. Then, a biopsy can be performed to look for cancerous cells. One of the biggest signs of skin cancer is whether your mole changes over time, so make sure to check yourself regularly.

How do you clean a mole that is removed?

After mole removal, you should make sure to gently clean your skin regularly with diluted hydrogen peroxide and keep a bandage and layer of Vaseline over it. This helps reduce scarring and keeps out bacteria.

How do you get moles?

Moles are simply a buildup of melanin, or the natural pigment in your skin. Sometimes, the cells grow in clusters and create a mole.

How do you know if a mole is suspicious?

Cancerous moles usually have different shape, color, texture, or appearance than other moles. If you notice a mole changes over time, you should see your dermatologist for a screening.

What does a crusty mole look like?

Crusty moles can feel scaly, rough, or bumpy in texture. Crusty moles also have a tendency to bleed or itch.

What does it mean when you have a lot of moles?

Having lots of moles doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop skin cancer – only that you may be more likely and should take some extra steps. Make sure to check with your dermatologist often so you know what to look for.

What happens during mole mapping?

Mole mapping is a process of using digital photography to track changes. This allows your dermatologist to compare your moles during subsequent skin checks. It can be beneficial if you have a large number of moles that would otherwise be difficult to keep track of.

What is the fastest way to get rid of moles?

You may find information online about how to get rid of moles at home, but it’s important to know that these can be dangerous. Always consult your dermatologist for a customized treatment plan.

Why is my mole itchy?

Itchiness - along with symptoms like crusting, bleeding, or unusual changes in shape, size, or color - can be early signs of skin cancer. It’s always best to see your dermatologist if you’re concerned about your mole.

Can moles be removed from face without scarring?

Certain cosmetic treatments can effectively target pigment from the skin without surgical scarring. However, these may not be the best options for cancerous moles. Your dermatologist can recommend your best options during a consultation.

Can you freeze off a mole at home?

Although you may find products to remove moles at home, they can be dangerous to your health and should be avoided. Additionally, you should always check with your dermatologist to make sure your growth is not cancerous.

Do moles grow in clusters?

Moles don’t tend to have any specific growth pattern, and are rather caused by the growth of melanin in the skin.

Do moles have roots?

Moles can have layers of growth beneath the surface of the skin, which will need to be appropriately removed if your dermatologist determines it’s cancerous. Certain skin cancer removal methods can be more effective in these cases, and your dermatologist can discuss your best options.

How do you stop moles from forming?

Moles are a normal occurrence on skin, and virtually everyone has some. Although you can’t stop them from forming, you can use sun protection and avoid sun exposure to lessen their appearance.

How long can skin cancer go undetected?

Skin cancer can grow for many years before being detected, especially if it’s in a less visible area. The longer that skin cancer grows, the less treatable it becomes, so it’s important to be checked regularly.

How long do you have to wear a bandage after mole removal?

You should keep the treatment area covered for one to two weeks after your procedure, changing it daily. This helps prevent infection and visible scarring.

Are moles genetic?

It’s not completely understood how genetics play a role in mole development. However, if members of your family have lots of moles, it’s likely that they’ll be passed down.

Can a dermatologist tell if a mole is cancerous?

Yes. Your dermatologist can look at your mole to determine if a biopsy is needed to confirm that cancerous cells are present.

Can a mole itch and not be cancer?

A mole can be itchy just like normal skin even when it’s not cancer. However, if itchiness accompanies other signs like crusting or bleeding, you should see your dermatologist right away.

Can moles be oval shaped?

Yes. Moles can be round, oval-shaped, and even have a raised texture.

How do doctors check if a mole is cancerous?

Your dermatologist will look for some telltale signs that your mole may be cancerous. Then, a biopsy can be performed to look for cancerous cells. One of the biggest signs of skin cancer is whether your mole changes over time, so make sure to check yourself regularly.

How do you clean a mole that is removed?

After mole removal, you should make sure to gently clean your skin regularly with diluted hydrogen peroxide and keep a bandage and layer of Vaseline over it. This helps reduce scarring and keeps out bacteria.

How do you get moles?

Moles are simply a buildup of melanin, or the natural pigment in your skin. Sometimes, the cells grow in clusters and create a mole.

How do you know if a mole is suspicious?

Cancerous moles usually have different shape, color, texture, or appearance than other moles. If you notice a mole changes over time, you should see your dermatologist for a screening.

What does a crusty mole look like?

Crusty moles can feel scaly, rough, or bumpy in texture. Crusty moles also have a tendency to bleed or itch.

What does it mean when you have a lot of moles?

Having lots of moles doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop skin cancer – only that you may be more likely and should take some extra steps. Make sure to check with your dermatologist often so you know what to look for.

What happens during mole mapping?

Mole mapping is a process of using digital photography to track changes. This allows your dermatologist to compare your moles during subsequent skin checks. It can be beneficial if you have a large number of moles that would otherwise be difficult to keep track of.

What is the fastest way to get rid of moles?

You may find information online about how to get rid of moles at home, but it’s important to know that these can be dangerous. Always consult your dermatologist for a customized treatment plan.

Why is my mole itchy?

Itchiness - along with symptoms like crusting, bleeding, or unusual changes in shape, size, or color - can be early signs of skin cancer. It’s always best to see your dermatologist if you’re concerned about your mole.

Can moles be removed from face without scarring?

Certain cosmetic treatments can effectively target pigment from the skin without surgical scarring. However, these may not be the best options for cancerous moles. Your dermatologist can recommend your best options during a consultation.

Can you freeze off a mole at home?

Although you may find products to remove moles at home, they can be dangerous to your health and should be avoided. Additionally, you should always check with your dermatologist to make sure your growth is not cancerous.

Do moles grow in clusters?

Moles don’t tend to have any specific growth pattern, and are rather caused by the growth of melanin in the skin.

Do moles have roots?

Moles can have layers of growth beneath the surface of the skin, which will need to be appropriately removed if your dermatologist determines it’s cancerous. Certain skin cancer removal methods can be more effective in these cases, and your dermatologist can discuss your best options.

How do you stop moles from forming?

Moles are a normal occurrence on skin, and virtually everyone has some. Although you can’t stop them from forming, you can use sun protection and avoid sun exposure to lessen their appearance.

How long can skin cancer go undetected?

Skin cancer can grow for many years before being detected, especially if it’s in a less visible area. The longer that skin cancer grows, the less treatable it becomes, so it’s important to be checked regularly.

How long do you have to wear a bandage after mole removal?

You should keep the treatment area covered for one to two weeks after your procedure, changing it daily. This helps prevent infection and visible scarring.