Why Do People Get Moles on Their Skin?

By Rachel Moltz

Moles are very common raised dark spots found on the skin just about anywhere on the body. Sometimes they are in groups or by themselves. Moles can be seen as beauty marks but can also lead to health risks and be cancerous. Moles sometimes appear over time due to factors such as sunlight, while other moles are hereditary. Depending on the size, shape, and color of the mole, some people chose to have the moles removed.

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Woman with mole on cheek


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Mother changing babies diaper

Moles can be caused by various factors. Many people are born with moles and have then all their lives. It is common for moles to develop during adolescence or childhood. Some people have moles that continue to develop after childhood. Hormone levels also affect mole development. Moles can appear, darken, or grow during pregnancy. Moles that are hereditary have a tendency to be atypical, or multicolored and misshapen. These atypical moles need to be monitored and possibly should be biopsied for melanoma, which is not uncommon.

Outdoor Causes

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Surfers at beach

The development of some moles can be linked to sun exposure. Moles commonly appear on people with fair skin who are exposed to sun. Sunlight can speed the development or changes in a mole. Any sun exposure during childhood potentially can increase the risk of developing melanoma later in life. People with atypical moles should avoid prolonged sun exposure and always wear sunscreen.


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Woman talking with doctor

Some moles can develop into melanoma, a cancerous growth of melanocytes. These moles may be enlarged with an irregular border, have darkening or inflammation, or may have color changes. Other moles that may be cancerous can have bleeding, itching, or pain. It is wise to have moles inspected periodically by a dermatologist. Moles need to be self-monitored for any changes.


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Woman talking with doctor

It is important to visit the dermatologist and get the entire body checked for any moles. Moles normally do not threaten a person's health. If any moles potentially are cancerous they should be removed immediately. Many moles are removed through laser treatment or they are shaved off. The removal session with the dermatologist can be a quick process.


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After the mole is inspected by the dermatologist, the method of removal will depend on the size and severity of the mole. In order to decrease any pain from removal, an anesthetic is applied to numb the area surrounding the mole. Usually the dermatologist will shave the mole off using a scalpel. A topical antibiotic is used to prevent infection in the cut.


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Woman looking in mirror

Moles removal surgery has few risks. However, it is very important to be on the lookout for an infection. It is important to remember that scarring from mole removal is not unusual. It is very common to have a medium to light scar of where the mole was removed.


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Mother putting sunscreen on daughter

It is important to keep an eye out for any moles that change in size or color over time. Moles that are very dark or flat should be monitored. It is also important to limit sun exposure and wear sunscreen.