Moles are skin blemishes that can appear anywhere on the face or body. They're usually a brownish colour, although some may be darker or the same colour as your skin. They're usually a round or oval shape with a smooth edge. They can be flat or raised, smooth or rough and may also have hairs growing through them.
Moles start to grow in childhood and continue to appear during early adulthood. They eventually stop appearing from middle age onwards and then disappear in old age. Over time, our moles may change in number and appearance and some even fade away. Most moles remain stable throughout our lifetime and will not cause any concerns or need any treatment.
Some people have a lot of moles - this often runs in families. Having lots of moles increases the risk of melanoma (a skin cancer) and if they are quite large (5mm diameter or more in size) you should see a dermatologist to assess your risk, especially if you have a family history of melanoma.
Also, if your moles remain into old age, and if you have a lot of them, then you may need a skin check-up, as they may mean that you are more prone to melanoma.
How to check your moles A mole can change as quickly as a few weeks or months, so you should check your skin every few months for new moles or changes to existing ones. Use this A.B.C.D.E. guide to checking your moles:
A = Asymmetry. A mole should have a round and regular shape and not be asymmetrical.
B = Border. The edges of the mole should be smooth and not jagged.
C = Colour. It's normal for moles to be one or two colours (usually brown), but look out for changes in colour, patchiness or if the mole is multi-coloured.
D = Diameter. Check for increases in size or if the mole is larger than 5mm across.
E = Evolving changes. Is the mole changing in shape, colour or size?
If you notice two or more of these, then you should speak to one of our dermatologists.
When to take action If a mole starts to itch, hurt, change in colour, shape or size, or start bleeding, then you should have it looked at by a dermatologist in order to rule out a potential skin cancer.
Treatment and removing moles Most benign moles do not need to be removed, so you may not need any treatment other than to keep an eye on them to make sure that there are no changes.
However, if your GP or dermatologist wants to rule out the chance of cancer they may suggest removing the mole for testing (known as a biopsy). Cutting out a mole is a simple and quick procedure. We can do this under a local anaesthetic at our clinic and will make sure the experience is comfortable and painless. Depending upon the size of the mole you may need one or two stitches. Your skin should be healed within two weeks, although you may be left with a scar depending on the size and location of your mole. Most scars fade within a year.
Occasionally, people like to have moles removed for cosmetic reasons or if there's a chance that the mole may become damaged, for example, through shaving. If you're concerned about damaging a mole this way, or feel that a mole is unsightly, our dermatologists can advise you on the best approach. However, it's important to remember that removing a mole usually leaves a scar, which may be more unsightly than the original mole.