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What is a Skin Mole?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A skin mole is a spot on the skin that is usually round or oval in shape. The skin mole can be small or large, and it may range in color from pink, brown, red, or black. A single mole is referred to in medical terms as a nevus. When one is discussing moles in the plural form, they are called nevi. Virtually everyone has at least a few moles. Statistically one will find between 10-50 moles on any part of the body.

We are all born with all the moles we will ever have. Many of them are not visible at birth but will darken as one ages. A mole is called by a collection of cells named melanocytes. These are present throughout the skin and are a part of skin pigmentation. When melanocytes occur in cluster formations they result in the eventual appearance of a mole.

A skin mole may be flat or it may be raised. Some will sprout a few hairs, which is normal, but unsightly moles can be removed. Usually, since the mole is so common, people do not have one removed unless the mole is quite large. A mole can be removed using several different methods, and depending on the size of the mole, may result in some scarring.

Common methods of removing a mole are surgical, either standard or laser, and through depositing acid on the mole to burn away the tissue. Surgical removal of a skin mole may be conducted in three ways.

The surgeon can remove the visible layers of the mole with a scalpel, and then dig out the remaining melanocytes with the scalpel. He or she may also use a scalpel to take off the top layer, and then use an electric needle to destroy the tissue beneath the surface. A procedure called cryosurgery applies liquid nitrogen to the mole, which essentially freezes off the mole. Laser surgery uses directed laser pulses to destroy the mole. Cryosurgery and Laser surgery tend to result in minimal scarring, but the size of the mole influences eventual scarring from any of the procedures.

Over the counter herbal mixtures and acids may also be used to remove a mole. These may result in more scarring, and some of the claims of herbal preparations are dubious. It is also important to be certain that the mole you are removing is a regular mole and not skin cancer, since these preparations will probably not remove all layers of the mole.

All moles have the potential to become skin cancer, and one should be vigilant in watching moles for signs of melanoma, which grows from melanocytes cells. Sudden changes in a mole, bleeding, rapid growth, or irregular size may all signify development of basal cell, squamous cell, or malignant melanoma. Changes in a mole or multiple moles warrant immediate attention by a physician.

Though basal cell is not likely to spread to other part of the body, the moles can become exceptionally large, causing a great deal of scarring upon removal. Both squamous cell and melanoma can metastasize quickly, spreading cancerous cells to other parts of the body. Thus even the most innocent skin moles should be watched for changes.

If you have an abundance of moles this is called dysplastic nevi. This is a genetic condition that predisposes one for greater risk of developing skin cancer. Avoiding the sun and using sunscreen when you are outside is essential. You might want to take a picture or pictures of the moles every six months to year, in the same location and from the same angle. That way you can evaluate the pictures to see if your moles appear to be changing. Otherwise, all should watch for signs of irregularity and seek early treatment if a mole appears to have changed.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon947520 — On Apr 26, 2014

@post 87: Sounds like Morgellons Disease.

By anon338708 — On Jun 16, 2013

My mother is 83 years and has something like acne all over her body, but a little hard point will come out and she pulls it and something like a feather stick comes out and hardly any blood. What is that?

By anon290849 — On Sep 11, 2012

Try wart mole vanish. It has worked magically for me but be careful not to apply outside of your spot. Just try to apply the cream on top of a scratched mole. It will turn start turning into a scab. It may look darker as the skin is drying out, but after few weeks your mole will fall off by itself (don't try to peel it off yourself. maybe keep safe with a band aid). Then, by the time the redness goes away, you will have a hardly noticeable white scar, which is 100 times better than the mole itself.

I'm glad that I tried it and many of my moles are gone away. It has made such a big difference in my life. I can smile at the mirror now. Good luck.

By anon286739 — On Aug 22, 2012

Do moles on the face go away by themselves in due course of time?

By anon281664 — On Jul 24, 2012

I have a very dark mole in my belly button. I was wondering if i should get it removed because it's quite embarrassing. I'm scared to take my top off on holiday, just in case anyone laughs at it.

By anon252424 — On Mar 05, 2012

I have a mole on my left cheek and it's black. It's really holding me down, and I'm quite sad. I want to remove it but my parents won't let me.

By anon248678 — On Feb 18, 2012

I have a birthmark flat mole on my cheek. A couple of weeks ago I had a zit at the edge of my birthmark. Half of the zit was under birthmark (mole) skin. When the skin grew back where it had been under the birthmark, the skin was normal colored. It wasn't birthmark colored. Is that normal?

By anon242776 — On Jan 25, 2012

I have a mole on my right hand. I have had it since birth. Recently it has started to peel off the top. It's like a crater with black in it. I'm not sure what to do about it, though. If anyone has any info about this, please help. I would like anyone to respond and tell me if it's happened to them or if they've heard about this.

By anon239065 — On Jan 06, 2012

I have a mole on my stomach which has always been there and it is raised. Last night, I noticed it scabbing on top and when I accidentally hit it by brushing past something, a clear liquid began to form on top, and it's also now extremely sore like a stinging pain.

I'm only 15 and only go out exposing my stomach if I'm in a bikini. I really hope this isn't a cancer. Could anyone help?

By anon227492 — On Nov 04, 2011

I had one on very certain area, and it came off but it bled a bit. If this continues, should I see a doctor?

By anon226700 — On Nov 01, 2011

I woke up the other and found a pinkish reddish mole on my right breast. It is raised at present. It doesn't hurt, but is not very attractive. I am more concerned about it being cancer.

I asked my doctor to keep an eye on it for any changes and so far, it is about the same size and not very big.

I also wanted to add that years ago I had a clear, raised mole removed from the side of my nose by a dermatologist. That was at least seven years ago and it never grew back.

Be careful and don't remove them on your own. It would be tragic if you missed a mole that was cancer. Be smart!

By anon219818 — On Oct 04, 2011

I just felt down on my back and a mole got scratched. What happens when a mole is scratched do I have to go and see a doctor?

By anon214493 — On Sep 15, 2011

I have flat moles on my both cheeks at the same distance. I know about removing big raised moles but my moles are small and flat. I want to remove one of them but I don't have any idea how to remove small flat moles, so if anybody knows, please help me. I will be really thankful.

By anon173266 — On May 06, 2011

I have a mole on the very right of my right breast and I think it's beautiful. I really like the sight of moles.

By jm8 — On May 02, 2011

i have a mole which i think is unnatural. It's shape is unusual because it's a cross. my friends saw it and were amazed by it. is it natural or what?

By anon169369 — On Apr 21, 2011

Having few moles is natural but when you see moles coming rapidly then it's blood impurity. One has to have medicines to remove blood impurities. Saafi is one such syrup.

By anon163270 — On Mar 27, 2011

There are plenty of natural remedies to remove a mole. Just look up something like "remove moles naturally." I recently did the apple cider vinegar treatment on a mole for five days and it's gone, no joke. I'm amazed. I have no idea if that's safe or not but I don't care; the mole is gone!

By anon156125 — On Feb 25, 2011

Ijust have removed my mole around my nose by the dermatend. but unfortunately there's some hair that's left where the mole was. i was wondering what should i do to get rid of those hairs? please anyone can answer?

By anon155860 — On Feb 24, 2011

@anon109080 I'm not sure if it's normal, but my dad had a mole on the left side of his face in front of his ear, and his father and brother each had a mole in the exact same location. So, I'd say yes.

I just got a mole removed from the left side of my neck today. It wasn't way too big - maybe the size of an eraser on a pencil - but I don't want it to grow any larger.

By anon141027 — On Jan 09, 2011

i just got my mole removed yesterday. it was on my right eye near the tear duct. i wonder if it will grow back. the ARNP just shaved it off and told me to put an ointment on it and check back within weeks to see if it was cancerous or not. I just want the mole off. it's embarrassing. I hope it does not grow back.

By anon138822 — On Jan 02, 2011

I know that there are more things to life than appearance, however i am a 14 year old girl and for years my moles have held me back. i have one on my right cheek, one on the side of my left jaw, one on my right ear, one on the side of my belly, and two on the front of my left leg. i never wear shorts or a bikini - even in summer.

I always wear my hair across my face, and i tried and failed to remove a few of them. The doctor won't remove them but they are driving me crazy. i get picked on constantly for them. i don't know what to do.

By anon136622 — On Dec 23, 2010

i have a mole that's above and very far to the side from my breast, and it shows when i wear vest tops. It looks weird and it looks like it has a mole on top of it? it's not that bad, but it really freaks me out. and i have one on my back which makes me nervous when i wear bikinis!

By anon128814 — On Nov 21, 2010

i have a large black mole on my left cheek below the left eye. Can i remove that completely and if yes then could you tell me the procedure?

By anon109080 — On Sep 05, 2010

is it usual if a mole is in the same place on their body, that their biological mother/father has one in that same place?

By anon108160 — On Sep 01, 2010

I just found a new mole that appeared out of nowhere near my pubic area and it itches. what does this mean?

By anon107386 — On Aug 30, 2010

It is important for everyone to know is that it is not our fault when we get moles. There is no way you can prevent them from coming up. Some people have only very few and some people have many (maybe 50, maybe 200, maybe even more).

Excessive sun exposure may play an important role, but it has something to do with if we have it in our genes or not.

People who get many, many moles over the years have only one choice: to accept them. Removing one or two moles might be possible, but if your body is covered by them, please do not think about removing them. Any mole removal will leave a white mark or a scar, because every treatment means that you are actually destroying the tissue of your skin.

Cutting or shaving off the mole will leave unacceptable scars, and even the more advanced shaving option with radio frequency will leave a mark. There is a 60 percent chance that this mole will come back anyway if it was not entirely removed, because moles grow back! So probably you will waste your money and time at the doctor.

I am a dancer and actor and I was very self confident until I got hundreds of moles everywhere on my entire body. It was shocking and it is still. My boyfriend keeps telling me how pretty I am and that most people do not even notice them.

Everyone who is dealing with the same fears and anxiety as me should listen carefully: For two years I have visited the best dermatologists in Australia, Germany and other countries in Europe. The answer is the same: Any treatment will leave scars behind. The safest way is to cut out the mole entirely. That way cancer can't develop and it will not grow back. But there is no reason to cut out a benign mole. Most moles are benign so there's no reason to panic!

If someone has many moles, it is actually much better to leave them without trying to remove them. Scars look worse than moles. People keep on saying that my skin is beautiful. I just have to start believing and one day i hope i will.

To everyone out there with the same issue: don't waste your life because of some moles. There is no way to remove them with no mark or scar. Try to accept and live with them. All the best!

By anon106479 — On Aug 25, 2010

Whats the difference between a wart and a mole?

By anon104347 — On Aug 16, 2010

i have a lot of very cute flat moles and all on very special spots where they look lovely so i have no complaints at all.

By anon99941 — On Jul 27, 2010

i had a mole on my face that i think accidentally scratched off when i scratched at a pimple that had formed above it. I really didn't mean to because I wasn't bothered by it and i pretty much liked the way it looked. Will it grow back? I'm really nervous that it won't and I would like it to.

By anon98647 — On Jul 23, 2010

I had a mole removed professionally from my inner thigh on my left leg. soon after that a tiny section grew back, and a new mole grew on my other leg in the exact spot. I also have new moles that grow all over my body. Flat ones, pinchable ones. It is quite ridiculous.

By anon96651 — On Jul 16, 2010

I have a mole on my leg and it almost covers the whole leg including the thigh. My one leg is black and another one is white due to that mole. It is very embarrassing because i can't put skirts on because the whole of my leg is that black mole. Please tell me what should i do. I'm going into depression from this.

By anon95860 — On Jul 13, 2010

Going to the dermatologist next week because a mole on my face started off small and brown and has now grown a couple times its size. It is right under my eye and appears to have thin, white, spindly protrusions that resemble tiny tentacles on a piece of coral or thin tiny whiteheads. It's almost as though a part of the mole grew and sprouted or may have been irritated or shredded.

I have looked at dozens of photos and haven't seen anything remotely resembling this. If you have seen this please let me know.

By anon93409 — On Jul 03, 2010

What does it mean if a mole is thick?

By anon87674 — On May 31, 2010

Some of my moles have a thin layer of skin grow over them and in time that dries up and can be pulled off and most don't grow back. Moles need to "breathe", so the layer of skin sort of chokes them. I'm glad they do that. They look a little strange, but soon they are gone.

By anon87522 — On May 30, 2010

It's always a good idea to consult with a dermatologist for questions regarding the growth or new appearance of moles. Don't attempt to self-diagnose or conduct any type of mole removal on your own. Leave it to the professionals.

My daughter had a mole on the side of her nose. Over time, it began to grow oddly in appearance; long and protruding. I took her to the dermatologist because it had become painful and served as a source of embarrassment for her. The Dermatologist inserted a needle to numb the location and proceeded with laser removal. The whole procedure lasted less than five minutes. Well worth the time investment and it's never reappeared.

By anon86697 — On May 26, 2010

I had a mole on the side of my nose, and it's so ugly! Who gets moles on the side of their noses? *sighs* It's a bumpy brown one. Ugh.

Anon, yup i think they would. i tried scratching mine off last time, and it grew back.

By anon85171 — On May 19, 2010

I have nearly 15 or 20 moles on my face. it's looking so bad. And moreover, i didn't have these in my childhood but now i am getting new moles on my face and on my body. Is it possible to remove these moles?

By anon84849 — On May 17, 2010

I had a mole on my chest and it was starting to hurt today. I felt it and it hurt and it felt like there was pressure in it. So, being curious, I poked a needle in it and it started bleeding a lot. It does feel better now, but is it bad that I did that?

By anon84504 — On May 16, 2010

Sometimes it makes people more attractive and sometimes worse.

By anon82145 — On May 04, 2010

I have a mole on my right leg on the back right (confusing huh!) and it hasn't been hurting me at all. I was just wondering how to make something at home that could help remove it. I also already read the comment up there about the herbal substance you can make but how do you make it?

By anon79697 — On Apr 23, 2010

I have a mole above my lip -- right smack dab in the the middle. so you guys shouldn't be complaining about your moles!

By anon78905 — On Apr 20, 2010

I have a mole in my eyebrow it get bigger and the surgeon is going to remove it. I wonder if it is going to hurt.

By dipyess — On Mar 28, 2010

i have a numerous of moles all over my body but some of them are turning to the color of black.

i have already had one mole removed because it was cancerous. does anyone have an idea of what i should do because i hate going to the doctor as i feel like a hypochondriac.

I am only 19 but when i got my mole removed i was 15 so please come forward with your suggestions as most of them will be read. I will be very grateful.

By anon73232 — On Mar 26, 2010

I am 50 and find that moles are all over my body and appearing more and more. I did not have these when I was younger so I am wondering if they are appearing more as I approach menopause. That would mean something is missing from my body as I get older which was there when I was younger.

I wonder what I can use to prevent them appearing more and more all over my body.

By anon70948 — On Mar 16, 2010

i have two new moles on my body on the same spot. i don't want anymore. i have a lot already -- one on my face, one big one on my arm, one on each side of my underarm, my back, my neck and now my legs. i want them off. can i remove them at home?

By anon69215 — On Mar 06, 2010

i am a 23 year old girl. i am getting many flat black moles all over my body, especially on my face. They are small right now but may become large and spoil my face. one i have got right at center of my nose is becoming darker with time. please provide help with medication,yoga or homeopathy. i am scared of laser and also can't afford it.

i have a skin coloured a bit raised (little scaly) mole on my right knee which used to get red and some time blue but now it doesn't change color but is a little scaly, i.e., no change in color for seven to nine months. is there any problem?

please help me. i have suffered a lot of my acne during my teens and now i can't tolerate and accept such weird moles in my 20's. please help me!

By hairymoley — On Mar 01, 2010

I like my hairy mole on my face because I can braid it and put beads in it. No seriously, it's all the rage!

By anon66988 — On Feb 22, 2010

I had a mole on my back surgically removed about six years ago, I have a scar there. lately it has become itchy and very sore like a knife is cutting into it. Anything to be worried about? I also had a mole removed off my cheek and it's same thing. The spot becomes very itchy. Hmmm.

By anon66804 — On Feb 21, 2010

I had a mole a little less than half an inch in diameter on my back. My dream. He numbed the area then using a scalpel he removed it. Afterwards he used a laser to burn the underlying tissue. I felt absolutely no pain.

In fact, the only time I felt anything was when the laser was being used and it felt like someone was drawing a small circle on my back with a rollerball pen going over and over the area.

In less than a week, the scab that formed fell off. At first I had a little white spot (like when any other scab falls off) but soon it was gone. The mole has not grown back at all and I had this procedure done at least two years ago.

By anon61582 — On Jan 21, 2010

If you were to scratch a mole off it will most likely grow back. Only with laser or surgical removal can you guarantee that it will not.

By anon60405 — On Jan 13, 2010

I had a mole on my upper right chest removed recently, I think by laser (heat as I felt the burn). It was approximately 6-7mm and squarish, and above my skin. Is this likely to grow back by laser treatment or should I proceed with the surgical scalpel removal?

By anon59476 — On Jan 08, 2010

Yes it may well grow back. you have to get it all off for it to be completely removed.

By anon58407 — On Jan 01, 2010

I recently removed my two moles by a doctor. However, two new ones are starting to grow out in different part of my body. They started out itchy and red and are slowly changing their color, looking like the one I had before (brown). I am really concerned. Can they be spreading?

By anon56400 — On Dec 14, 2009

l just had my two moles on my face removed by the doctor. Will they grow back again?

By anon54319 — On Nov 29, 2009

I have a mole under my right foot. I think that I always have it but I didn't really pay attention to it. I noticed recently that now I have two additional moles under the same foot which are increasing slowly in size. Apart from that, this is not affecting me in any way.

By anon49651 — On Oct 22, 2009

i love the mole on my chin, under my lip. :)

By anon48783 — On Oct 15, 2009

pducey, The exact thing happened to me recently,only it happened much more rapidly. I'm an adult, and just had the now mole-free area check by a dermatologist. He said my immune system detected something, and got rid of the mole. He didn't seem concerned. It probably won't grow back.

By anon48291 — On Oct 11, 2009

I recently found three moles that shape a pyramid on my left hand. What can that mean?

By anon46781 — On Sep 28, 2009

i would like to know: Why do we have moles? all i can find is that they just are there from birth. (it's not an answer to why, just a fact -.-) What is the mole's purpose? (everything about the body has a purpose, be it from past mutations/adatations) what is the mole's role?

By anon43351 — On Aug 27, 2009

i just grew a new mole and it hurts. it's in a spot that does rubbing on my clothes. on my mom's side, we get big moles and i have quite a few. i was wondering how effective the mole removal will be. thanks

By anon42930 — On Aug 24, 2009

I have a number of unsightly moles on my body. I've always wondered - what would be the most economical and safest way to remove them?

By anon40224 — On Aug 06, 2009

I have had 3 moles removed, some by surgery and one by using mole wart vanish. All of them successful. 2 of them I removed 6 years ago, till date no sign of it. Mole wart vanish was the best I used, no scarring and the mole fell in approximately 6 days.

By anon32466 — On May 21, 2009

I had a mole for years on my leg, in a very bad spot. Every time I shaved I seemed to cut it. One day I cut it shaving and it bled a lot, but it was not deep. It never grew back and that was about 7 years ago.

By pducey — On Dec 13, 2008

My daughter develops a white circle around her moles, and then over a few months the mole disappears. It is almost as if her immune system attracts and destroys the mole. She will have a white circle where the mole was, but it will slowly turn back to her normal skin color. Have you heard of this before? Does it have a name?

By anon22822 — On Dec 10, 2008

I have a raised mole, and i really don't like it. :( im 14, and i don't want a scare....but i don't like it.....is there any possible procedure that doesn't hurt or anything that i can do???

By anon20221 — On Oct 27, 2008

I think I scratched off a mole...should I be worried?

By anon18340 — On Sep 20, 2008

I believe they will grow back unless properly removed. I actually had one on my cheek (not very large at all, but raised), got a light case of sun burn, and the mole, believe it or not, peeled off with the other skin. For two weeks I thought it was gone, but it has since started to come back. Very odd indeed, I think.

By bookworm — On Jun 30, 2008

Moles should be removed only by a doctor. I had a mole on my chin, very unsightly, and simply had it removed surgically and it never came back. Also I read that it is fine to pluck hair from a mole.

By anon14440 — On Jun 16, 2008

why does the black spot lightly increase on face over the years?

By anon4414 — On Oct 17, 2007

Most probably they will. But there are cases where they don't too (;

By anon4058 — On Oct 01, 2007

I wonder about this too. A few days ago I caught my arm on a cupboard door and took a piece of a mole off. Will it grow back?

By anon426 — On Apr 24, 2007

If a person were to scratch a mole off with their fingernail will the mole grow back?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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