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Moles

Moles are small, coloured spots on the skin. Most people have them and they're usually nothing to worry about unless they change size, shape or colour.

Most moles are harmless

A harmless, raised, brown mole on pale skin
Most harmless moles are round or oval-shaped, with a smooth edge
Credit:

SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/259903/view

A harmless, flat, brown mole on pink skin
They can be flat or raised and may feel smooth or rough
Credit:

DR P. MARAZZI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/259947/view

A harmless, raised, dark-coloured mole with hair growing from it
Sometimes they have hair growing from them
Credit:

Contributor: BSIP SA / Alamy Stock Photo Image ID: MME7MB

https://www.alamy.com/nevus-image184710187.html?pv=1&stamp=2&imageid=B33AEE40-FD41-4DE2-BF16-72B8A18E1C94&p=165781&n=0&orientation=0&pn=2&searchtype=0&IsFromSearch=1&srch=foo%3dbar%26st%3d0%26pn%3d2%26ps%3d100%26sortby%3d3%26resultview%3dsortbyRelevant%26npgs%3d0%26qt%3dmole%2520hair%26qt_raw%3dmole%2520hair%26lic%3d3%26mr%3d0%26pr%3d0%26ot%3d0%26creative%3d%26ag%3d0%26hc%3d0%26pc%3d%26blackwhite%3d%26cutout%3d%26tbar%3d1%26et%3d0x000000000000000000000%26vp%3d0%26loc%3d0%26imgt%3d0%26dtfr%3d%26dtto%3d%26size%3d0xFF%26archive%3d1%26groupid%3d%26pseudoid%3d%26a%3d%26cdid%3d%26cdsrt%3d%26name%3d%26qn%3d%26apalib%3d%26apalic%3d%26lightbox%3d%26gname%3d%26gtype%3d%26xstx%3d0%26simid%3d%26saveQry%3d%26editorial%3d%26nu%3d%26t%3d%26edoptin%3d%26bespoke%3d4%26customgeoip%3dGB%26apaid%3d%7b18B189B6-6A83-41BD-8442-2448A6B7E281%7d%26custspecid%3d14369B5F-24B7-4344-B743-D5DE569A1F46%26cap%3d1%26cbstore%3d1%26vd%3d0%26lb%3d%26fi%3d2%26edrf%3d0%26ispremium%3d1%26flip%3d0%26pl%3d

A harmless, black mole on dark skin
Moles are darker on dark skin
Credit:

Contributor: EyeEm / Alamy Stock Photo Image ID: WBFD4C

https://www.alamy.com/portrait-of-woman-with-headscarf-image265256332.html?pv=1&stamp=2&imageid=50740171-D814-439F-8F04-115BCA386F9F&p=914525&n=0&orientation=0&pn=1&searchtype=0&IsFromSearch=1&srch=foo%3dbar%26st%3d0%26pn%3d1%26ps%3d100%26sortby%3d3%26resultview%3dsortbyRelevant%26npgs%3d0%26qt%3dmole%2520african%2520skin%26qt_raw%3dmole%2520african%2520skin%26lic%3d3%26mr%3d0%26pr%3d0%26ot%3d0%26creative%3d%26ag%3d0%26hc%3d0%26pc%3d%26blackwhite%3d%26cutout%3d%26tbar%3d1%26et%3d0x000000000000000000000%26vp%3d0%26loc%3d0%26imgt%3d0%26dtfr%3d%26dtto%3d%26size%3d0xFF%26archive%3d1%26groupid%3d%26pseudoid%3d%26a%3d%26cdid%3d%26cdsrt%3d%26name%3d%26qn%3d%26apalib%3d%26apalic%3d%26lightbox%3d%26gname%3d%26gtype%3d%26xstx%3d0%26simid%3d%26saveQry%3d%26editorial%3d%26nu%3d%26t%3d%26edoptin%3d%26bespoke%3d4%26customgeoip%3dGB%26apaid%3d%7b18B189B6-6A83-41BD-8442-2448A6B7E281%7d%26custspecid%3d14369B5F-24B7-4344-B743-D5DE569A1F46%26cap%3d1%26cbstore%3d1%26vd%3d0%26lb%3d%26fi%3d2%26edrf%3d0%26ispremium%3d1%26flip%3d0%26pl%3d

It's normal for:

  • babies to be born with moles
  • new moles to appear – especially in children and teenagers
  • moles to fade or disappear as you get older
  • moles to get slightly darker during pregnancy

When a mole could be serious

Some moles can be a sign of melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

Signs of melanoma include:

A multicoloured melanoma on pale skin
A mole that's changed colour or has more than 2 colours
Credit:

DR P. MARAZZI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/253324/view

A multicoloured melanoma with uneven borders on pale skin
A mole with uneven borders
Credit:

DR P. MARAZZI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/108472/view

A multicoloured melanoma that's raised with crusting
A mole that's bleeding, itching, crusting or raised
Credit:

DR P. MARAZZI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/97260/view

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if you notice a change in a mole

It's important to get a new or existing mole checked out if it:

  • changes shape or looks uneven
  • changes colour, gets darker or has more than 2 colours
  • starts itching, crusting, flaking or bleeding
  • gets larger or more raised from the skin

These changes can happen over weeks or months.

Information:

Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during coronavirus

If the GP thinks it's melanoma

You'll be referred to a specialist in hospital. You should have an appointment within 2 weeks.

The main treatment for melanoma is surgery to remove the mole.

Cosmetic mole treatment

Most moles are harmless. Harmless moles are not usually treated on the NHS.

You can pay a private clinic to remove a mole, but it may be expensive. A GP can give you advice about where to get treatment.

How to prevent cancerous moles

UV light from the sun can increase the chance of a mole becoming cancerous. If you have lots of moles, you need to be extra careful in the sun.

It's important to check your moles regularly for any changes.

There are some things you can do to protect your moles from sun damage, especially during hot weather.

Do

  • stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm, when sunlight is strongest

  • cover skin with clothes – wear a hat and sunglasses if you have moles on your face

  • regularly apply a high-factor sunscreen (minimum SPF30) and apply it again after swimming – read more about sunscreen and sun safety

Don’t

  • do not use sunlamps or sunbeds – they use UV light

Information:

Further information

The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) has more information about sunscreen and how to stay safe in the sun.

Page last reviewed: 22 June 2020
Next review due: 22 June 2023