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Providence Health & Services
Swedish Health System | Seattle, WA
Kadlec Regional Medical Center | Richland, WA

When a mole isn’t a mole

A mole is a spot on the skin where pigmented cells are clustered together. You may have been born with a few and have gotten more as you got older due to sun exposure. Most adults develop about 10-40 moles until they’re 40 years old. Moles have these characteristics:
  • Even color of pink, tan or brown
  • Smaller than ¼ inch wide (the width of a pencil eraser)
  • Generally round or oval, dome-shaped
  • Has a smooth surface with a distinct edge

These types of moles rarely turn into melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. However, if you have more than 50 moles and/or have close relatives with melanoma, you have an increased chance of developing melanoma.

Like other types of cancers, early detection is important. Make it a habit to inspect your moles regularly for these types of changes:

  • Change in color
  • Change in size
  • Change in shape, texture, or height
  • Surface becomes scaly or dry
  • Starts to itch, bleed or ooze

See your primary care provider if you find changes in an existing mole or develop a new one.

Categories: Prevention