Moles are growths on the skin. They happen when pigment cells in the skin, called melanocytes, grow in clusters. Moles are very common. Most people have between 10 and 40 moles. A person may develop new moles from time to time, usually until about age 40. In older people, they tend to fade away.
Moles are usually pink, tan or brown. They can be flat or raised. They are usually round or oval and no larger than a pencil eraser.
About one out of every ten people has at least one unusual (or atypical) mole that looks different from an ordinary mole. They are called dysplastic nevi. They may be more likely than ordinary moles to develop into melanoma, a type of skin cancer. You should have a health care professional check your moles if they look unusual, grow larger, change in color or outline, or in any other way.
NIH: National Cancer Institute
- Common Moles, Atypical Moles (Dysplastic Nevi), and Risk of Melanoma (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- Moles (American Osteopathic College of Dermatology)
- Moles (Nevi) (American Academy of Dermatology)
- What Does a Mole Look Like? (National Cancer Institute)
Prevention and Risk Factors
- Body Mole Map (American Academy of Dermatology) - PDF
- Psychological Challenges Associated with Congenital Melanocytic Nevus (CMN) (Nevus Outreach, Inc.)
- Atypical Moles (American Osteopathic College of Dermatology)
- Frequently Asked Questions about Congenital Melanocytic Nevus (CMN) (Nevus Outreach, Inc.)
- Skin Cancer: Atypical Moles (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Nevus (National Institutes of Health)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- Birthmark (Congenital Melanocytic Nevus) (Logical Images)