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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 skinA harmless, flat, brown mole on pink skinA harmless, raised, dark-coloured mole with hair growing from itA harmless, black mole on dark skin

It's normal for:

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 skinA multicoloured melanoma with uneven borders on pale skinA multicoloured melanoma that's raised with crusting

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.

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.