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.
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
Some moles can be a sign of melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
Signs of melanoma include:
If the GP thinks your mole is melanoma, you'll be referred to a specialist in hospital. You should get an appointment within 2 weeks.
The main treatment for melanoma is surgery to remove the mole.
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.
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.
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
do not use sunlamps or sunbeds – they use UV light
The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) has more information about sunscreen and how to stay safe in the sun.