What is moles?

Moles in children: Overview

Moles are skin growths made up of cells that produce color (pigment). A mole can appear anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups. Most people get a few moles during their first 20 years of life. They are usually brown in color but can be blue, black, or flesh-colored. Most moles are harmless and do not cause pain or other symptoms, unless you rub them or they bump against something.

A child usually does not need treatment for moles. But some can turn into cancer. Talk to your doctor if your child has a mole that bleeds, itches, burns, or changes size or color. Also let the doctor know when your child gets a new mole. Make sure your child wears sunscreen and other sun protection every day to help prevent skin cancer.

Moles

A mole is a skin growth made up of cells (melanocytes or nevus cells) that produce color (pigment). Moles can appear anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups.

Most moles appear during the first 20 years of a person's life. Some may not appear until later in life. Although most moles are harmless, some can become cancerous. Signs of skin cancer include a change in the skin, such as a growth, an irritation or sore that does not heal, or a change in a wart or mole.

  • Moles are usually brown, but they can be blue, black, or flesh-colored.
  • Size and shape may vary.
  • During the teen years and pregnancy, moles tend to become darker and larger, and new ones may appear.
  • Some moles may contain hairs, stay smooth, become raised or wrinkled, or fall off in old age.

How are moles removed?

Your doctor may remove a mole in any of these ways:

  • Cutting it off. Some moles can be "shaved" off flush with the skin. Other moles may have cells that go underneath the skin. In that case, your doctor might make a deeper cut to remove the entire mole and prevent it from growing back. This cut may require stitches.
  • Freezing it with liquid nitrogen. Your doctor will swab or spray a small amount of super-cold liquid nitrogen on the mole. You might have a small blister where the mole was, but it will heal on its own.
  • Burning it off. An electric current passes through a wire that becomes hot. The wire is used to burn off the upper layers of the skin. You may need more than one treatment to remove a mole.

The procedure may hurt a little, but your doctor will numb the area with an anesthetic first. If the procedure causes any bleeding, your doctor may apply a medicine that helps stop the bleeding. Then the doctor will put a bandage on the area. These procedures usually leave only small scars or marks.

Why are moles removed?

Most moles don't need to be treated. But some people have them removed because they don't like the way their mole looks or feels. If you have a mole that looks different from your other moles, have your doctor check it for cancer.

How can you care for yourself when you have moles?

Check regularly for skin growths or changes such as in the color and feel of the skin. Check your whole body, including your genital area, your scalp, and between your toes. Contact your doctor if you see changes, such as a fast-growing mole, a mole that bleeds, or a sore that doesn't heal.

What are moles?

Moles are skin growths made up of cells that produce color (pigment). A mole can appear anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups. They are usually brown but can be blue, black, or flesh-colored. Most moles are harmless.

Is it safe to remove moles and skin tags at home?

Home remedies, such as using nail clippers to cut off skin tags or using lotions and pastes to remove moles, may cause bleeding, infection, and scarring. It's important that your doctor check moles before they are removed. It's best to have your doctor remove your moles and skin tags for you.

Moles in children: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • A mole looks different than it did before. It may have changed in size, color, shape, or the way it looks.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.