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While some moles can be cancerous or may develop into skin cancer, most moles (also called nevi) are completely benign. Because it can be difficult to tell if a mole might be cancerous or precancerous, it’s important to have any unusual mole evaluated by a skilled dermatologist.
Benign moles tend to be very uniform in their size, shape, and color while cancerous moles are much more varied. For instance, they may be multicolored or have an uneven border or shape, or their size, shape or color may change. Some (but not all) cancerous moles are very large, or they may become itchy or painful. While self-assessment can help identify unusual changes in a mole, relying solely on self-examination to determine if a mole might be cancerous is not a good idea. The best way to determine if a mole could be an early sign of cancer is to have it evaluated by a dermatologist who’s skilled in skin cancer screenings and diagnosis. If a mole appears unusual during the evaluation, a small sample of skin cells can be removed for further evaluation under a microscope.
Benign moles that cause irritation or aesthetic issues can be removed using one of several techniques:
Benign moles that don’t cause problems typically are left alone.
No. Because there’s always a chance that a mole could be a sign of skin cancer, it should never be removed at home. Not only can this prevent the mole from being evaluated for cancer cells, but it can also cause dangerous infections and scarring. If a mole is causing problems, it should only be removed by a dermatologist with experience in mole removal.