Changes in a mole or other skin growth

Most moles will normally change over time. They may gradually become larger or raised, develop a hair, grow lighter, fade away completely, or fall off. However, some changes in moles or skin growths are caused by skin cancer.

Early detection and treatment of skin cancer can prevent complications. Early signs of melanoma (a serious type of skin cancer) involve a change in a mole or other skin growth. These early signs are described in the ABCDE system (Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, Evolution).

  • Asymmetry is present when one side or half of the mole looks very different than the other side or half.
  • The edges or borders of the mole may turn jagged or scalloped (irregular borders).
  • Color may turn dark, black or, less often, red, white, or blue. A part of the mole may lose color, or the mole may develop a mix of colors. Color may spread from the edge of a mole into surrounding skin.
  • The size of the mole (diameter) may rapidly increase. The mole is usually wider than a pencil eraser [6 mm (0.2 in.)] but may be smaller.
  • There is a change (evolution) in the size, shape, symptoms (such as itching or tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or color of a mole.

A skin growth may be a cause for concern if:

  • A flat mole becomes thicker or raised.
  • The mole becomes scaly, worn down (eroded), or crusted, or it oozes or bleeds.
  • Skin around the mole becomes red or swollen or develops new patches of color.
  • The spot itches, tingles, or burns.
  • Pieces of skin become too soft and break off easily.

Later signs of a melanoma include:

  • Development of an open sore (ulcer).
  • A mole or colored skin spot that becomes painful or bleeds.

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.