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What’s Safe, What’s not.

Moles, those odd spots on your skin that range from black to brown to pink (and other colors), are caused by melanocytes. Melanocytes are the skin cells that make your skin’s pigment (natural color). When they grow together instead of spreading out, moles appear. Most of us are born with at least a few moles, and more develop over time.

Most moles are generally harmless. However, a deadly type of skin cancer called melanoma can grow inside of or near a mole. Because of this patients should be aware of what moles they have, pay attention to how those moles change over time, and see a dermatologist annually (or sooner if suspicious changes occur) to check for skin cancer or other health problems.


According to the American Academy of Dermatology , most safe moles have the following traits:

  • 1 color – Often brown, but a mole can be tan, black, red, pink, blue, skin-toned, or colorless.
  • Round in shape.
  • Flat or slightly raised.
  • Looks the same from month to month

Who is a candidate for Mohs surgery?

  • Patients with basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, some forms of melanoma and other skin cancers
  • Patients with skin cancers that have a high risk of recurrence (or that have recurred)
  • Patients with skin cancer in areas around the face (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hairline), on the hands or feet or other areas where it is desirable to preserve as much healthy tissue as possible
  • Patients with large or aggressive skin cancers or who have skin cancers with borders that are difficult to define

Potentially cancerous moles may have a different appearance as characterized by the “A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma”:

  • “A” stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
  • “B” stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
  • “C” is for color. Is the color uneven?
  • “D” is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
  • “E” is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?


While most of us have what are called common moles, other types of moles such as atypical moles (moles that may look like melanoma but aren’t), congenital moles (moles we’re born with that may grow as we grow), Spitz nevi (raised, pink, dome-shaped moles), acquired moles (common moles that appear after we’re born) also exist on many people. In some cases, having a certain number of these other types of moles may indicate that a person has a higher risk for getting melanoma. Your dermatologist can review your moles and help you determine what your risks are and what you should watch out for.

Annual Screening

Annual skin examinations help ensure early detection, as identifying problem areas before they become cancerous is ideal. If a growth, mole, sore, or skin discoloration appears suddenly, or begins to change, don’t wait for your annual screening, call our office immediately.

Other Mole Problems

Non-cancerous mole removal: For some, moles can represent a more mundane but annoying skin feature that either gets in the way (such as a raised mole that is often cut shaving) or is considered aesthetically displeasing. If you are troubled by a mole and wish to have it removed, it’s best to see a dermatologist and have it professionally removed rather than trying to remove it yourself.

Learn More

For more information on our dermatology services, please call (530) 528-4456 or contact us. Or click here to Find a Doctor.