Moles: Symptoms, Types, Diagnosis and Treatment

Moles are usually dark colored skin growths which are very common. Medically they are called as nevi. Most people have around 10 to 40 moles. They occur because pigment producing cell in the skin grows in clusters. Some of them show changes with the time, becomes lighter or darker. Change in a mole or appearance of new mole in an adult can be a sign of melanoma. Melanoma is the most serious cancer of the skin. If detected early it is highly treatable.

What are Moles?

Symptoms and features of Moles

The mole on your body can have following features

  • Color – often brown but can be of any color like black, tan, red, pink, blue, skin toned or colorless
  • Texture – they can be flat or raised and smooth or wrinkled.
  • Shape – they are mostly oval and round but shape can vary greatly
  • Location – moles can occur anywhere in the body, they don’t have any specific location

Types of moles

On the basis of appearance of moles there are two types of moles

  • Congenital moles: When a mole is present from birth it is called as congenital mole. Approximately 1 out of every 100 people have congenital mole. Their size varies greatly. The risk of developing giant congenital mole into melanoma is about 6%.
  • Acquired moles: An individual gets these moles after birth. They can be typical or atypical. Chances of melanoma increases in a person having 50 or more than 50 acquired moles.

On the basis of features mole are of generally three types

  • Typical moles: These moles are symmetric, round or ovoid, remain unchanged over months. These are benign or non-cancerous. People also call them common moles.
  • Spitz nevus: It is a mole which occurs in children and young adults. These resemble so much to melanoma even dermatologist sometimes find it difficult to distinguish. Most of them are pink colored and dome shaped but their color can vary. These are non-cancerous.
  • Atypical moles: The moles having any of the features of ABCDE guide is considered to be atypical
  • A is Asymmetry – one half of mole is different from another half
  • B is Border moles with irregular, poorly defined or notched borders
  • C is Color – If color is not uniform all over the mole and varies from one part to another having shades of tan, black, brown, white, red or blue
  • D is Diameter – if their size is larger than 6 mm, as cancerous mole are usually greater than 6 mm when diagnosed but it can be smaller
  • E is Evolving cancerous mole evolves to show changes in size, appearance, shape, height or develops new sign like bleeding or itching.

If you have any of your moles having any of the features of ABCDE guide then consult your doctor as soon as possible because half of melanoma arises from atypical moles. Not all atypical moles are cancerous, in reality even most of the atypical moles are non-cancerous and half of melanoma can still arise from the normal looking skin

Types of Moles

Diagnosis of Moles

Your doctor will easily tell a mole just by looking at your skin but he may ask some questions about your medical or family history about moles.

Treatment of Moles

Most moles need not to be treated or removed. Your dermatologist will remove a mole if

Your mole is thought to be cancerous

  • It is unattractive to person due to cosmetics reason
  • It is bothersome or irritating like rubbing against cloths or difficulty in shaving

There are two procedures for mole removal

  • Surgical shave: It is done for smaller moles. In this procedure a surgical blade is used to shove off the mole.
  • Surgical excision: It is done for larger moles. Your dermatologist will cut out the entire mole and stitches the remaining exposed skin ends.

Prevention of Moles

It is not possible to prevent all types of moles due to body’s own genetics but you can try some measure which can reduce the chances of formation of atypical moles and thus melanoma like

  • Using sunscreens with SPF 50 (Sun Protection Factor)
  • Wearing full clothes like full sleeves, long pants
  • Wearing brimmed hats


  • Twenty nevi on the arms: A simple rule to identify patients younger than 50 years of age at higher risk for melanoma. European Journal of Cancer Prevention. 2014;23:458.
  • Number of moles could predict breast cancer risk. BMJ. 2014;348:g3739.
  • Prevention guidelines. Skin Cancer Foundation.
  • National Cancer Institute.