Moles - Diagnosis and treatment (2024)



Your healthcare professional can diagnose moles by looking at your skin. During a skin exam, your healthcare professional looks at your skin from head to toe. If your healthcare professional thinks that a mole may be cancerous, it is removed and sent to a lab for examination under a microscope. This is called a biopsy.

You might choose to make a skin exam a regular part of your preventive medical care. Talk with your healthcare professional about the schedule that's right for you.

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Most moles don't need treatment. If you're self-conscious about a mole, you could try makeup to help hide it. If you have a hair growing from a mole, you might try clipping it close to the skin's surface or plucking it. Anytime you cut or irritate a mole, keep the area clean. See your healthcare professional if a mole doesn't heal.

You also might talk with your dermatologist about surgically removing a mole if it bothers you or if you notice suspicious changes in it. Mole removal is a quick procedure that is typically done on an outpatient basis. During mole removal, your healthcare professional numbs the area around the mole and cuts it out, along with a margin of healthy skin if needed. The procedure may leave a permanent scar. People with Black skin are at increased risk of other surgical side effects, such as pigmentary changes where the cut is, and keloid scars, which are raised scars after an injury heals.

If you notice that a mole has grown back, see your healthcare professional promptly.

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Preparing for your appointment

If you have a mole that concerns you, your healthcare professional typically can let you know if it's normal or needs to be studied more. Your healthcare professional may send you to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders, known as a dermatologist, for diagnosis and treatment.

It's a good idea to arrive for your appointment well-prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready.

What you can do

  • List any changes you've noticed or any new symptoms you're having. Include any that may seem unrelated to the reason why you scheduled the appointment.
  • Bring a list of all medicines, vitamins or supplements that you take.
  • If you've had a melanoma or a mole removed in the past, note the location of the lesion and the date of removal. If you have the biopsy report, bring it with you.
  • Don't wear makeup or opaque nail polish to your appointment. These products make it hard for your healthcare professional to do a thorough exam.
  • List questions to ask your healthcare professional.

For moles, some basic questions to ask your healthcare professional include:

  • Do you think this mole might be cancerous?
  • What's the best course of action?
  • How can I tell if a mole needs to be looked at?
  • Can I keep more moles from growing?
  • Do you have any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your healthcare professional is likely to ask you several questions, such as:

  • When did you first notice this mole?
  • Have you always had it, or is it new?
  • Have you noticed any changes in this mole, such as its color or shape?
  • Have you had other moles surgically removed in the past? If so, do you know if they were unusual, known as atypical nevi, or malignant?
  • Do you have a family history of atypical nevi, melanoma or other cancers?
  • Have you had peeling sunburns or frequently been exposed to UV radiation, such as from tanning beds?

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Dec. 15, 2023


  1. Atypical nevus. AskMayoExpert. Mayo Clinic; 2022.
  2. Fowler GC, et al., eds. Approach to various skin lesions. In: Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 4th ed. Elsevier; 2020. Accessed Oct. 5, 2023.
  3. Halpern A, et al. Atypical (dysplastic) nevi. Accessed Oct. 5, 2023.
  4. Hunt R, et al. Acquired melanocytic nevi (moles). Accessed Oct. 5, 2023.
  5. Hunt R, et al. Congenital melanocytic nevi. Accessed Oct. 5, 2023.
  6. Sun protection. Skin Cancer Foundation. Accessed Oct. 5, 2023.
  7. Goldstein AO. Overview of benign lesions of the skin. Accessed Oct. 5, 2023.
  8. What does a mole look like? National Cancer Institute. Accessed Oct. 5, 2022.
  9. Schaffer JV, et al. Benign pigmented skin lesions other than melanocytic nevi (moles). Accessed Oct. 5, 2023.
  10. Sunscreen FAQS. American Academy of Dermatology. Accessed Oct. 5, 2023.
  11. Dinulos JGH. Nevi and malignant melanoma. In Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Elsevier; 2021. Accessed Oct. 5, 2023.
  12. High WA, et al., eds. Special considerations in skin of color. In: Dermatology Secrets. 6th ed. Elsevier; 2021. Accessed Oct. 5, 2023.
  13. Moles: Overview. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Accessed Oct. 5, 2023.
  14. Sominidi Damodaran S (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Nov. 1, 2023.


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Associated Procedures

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