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Moles getting darker: What to Look For and When to Worry

What to Look For and When to Worry


Kevin Dahle, MD

Moles are mostly determined by genetics, though sun exposure and tanning bed use can cause you to form new moles or make your existing moles darker. Moles may also change during puberty and pregnancy, as well.

Moles are generally small, pigmented spots on the skin. Moles come in many shapes, sizes and colors. Moles can be raised off the skin or flat. There is a huge variety in the types of moles that a person can have. Moles are classified generally into the following categories:

  • Congenital moles. Moles that are present at birth are called congenital moles. Congenital moles are categorized by their size: small, medium and large. Only large congenital moles (greater than 20mm in size) have a significantly increased risk of turning into a skin cancer.
  • Acquired moles. Most moles are acquired, meaning they develop after birth. They are typically smaller than a pencil eraser and have even pigmentation and a symmetrical border. Most acquired moles will not develop into a skin cancer.
  • Atypical moles. Atypical moles (also called dysplastic nevi) have asymmetrical, irregular borders and often have multiple colors. The pigmentation is often uneven and they can have focal darker areas. Multiple atypical moles can run in families. The more atypical moles that you have, the higher your risk of skin cancer.


When to See Your Doctor About Your Mole


It is important to consult your doctor about any suspicious moles, as these lesions may represent malignant melanoma, a life-threatening type of skin cancer 

Examine your skin every month or two to look for any new or changing moles. If you have a family history of atypical moles or skin cancer or you have numerous moles, you may benefit from seeing a dermatologist for regular skin checks.

When you examine your moles, remember the ABCDEs of melanoma. If you notice any of the following, consult your doctor or dermatologist:

A for asymmetry: A mole in which one half of the mole does not look like the other half

B for irregular border: A mole with a poorly defined or scalloped border

C for varied color: A mole with multiple shades of black, brown, white, red and/or blue

D for large diameter: A mole that is larger than a pencil eraser in size

E for evolving: A mole that is changing in size, shape or color


New moles: A new mole that develops, especially if it appears after your 30s

Bothersome moles: A mole that bleeds, itches or is painful


Removing a Mole


Most moles are harmless. However, if your dermatologist is concerned about one of your moles or you want a mole removed, this can usually be done easily in the clinic.

To remove a mole, your dermatologist will numb the area around the mole and shave or cut it off. Sometimes a few stitches are required. The tissue will be sent to a laboratory to confirm it is not cancerous.

Keep an eye on your moles. The earlier a skin cancer is detected, the easier it is to be treated. 

LiVe Well


Intermountain Healthcare,

Skin Cancer

Last Updated:

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Copyright ©2023, Intermountain Health, All rights reserved.




New moles: A new mole that develops, especially if it appears after your 30s


Bothersome moles: A mole that bleeds, itches or is painful







Removing a Mole




Most moles are harmless. However, if your dermatologist is concerned about one of your moles or you want a mole removed, this can usually be done easily in the clinic.


To remove a mole, your dermatologist will numb the area around the mole and shave or cut it off. Sometimes a few stitches are required. The tissue will be sent to a laboratory to confirm it is not cancerous.


Keep an eye on your moles. The earlier a skin cancer is detected, the easier it is to be treated. 


The Truth About Mole Changes & Skin Cancer | Henry Ford Health

Warmer weather and longer days are on their way in Michigan, and with the changing season comes more time spent outdoors in summer attire and more sun – which is accompanied by ultraviolet (UV) rays. Whether you have one mole or 100, it’s crucial you are aware of the proper shape and color these marks should have – and what to do if you notice changes.

Regardless of the number and appearance of your moles, they are common. And they do change over the course of their lifetime. But how do you know if these changes are healthy and normal or indicate something worse – like skin cancer?

Laurie Kohen M.D., a dermatologist at Henry Ford Health, works with high-risk patients who have numerous irregular moles, and is an expert in assessing if a mole is suspect.

What exactly is a mole?

A melanocyte (mole) is a specific type of pigment-producing cell that resides in the skin. These melanocytes are found periodically in “normal” skin, but can grow in nests to form moles.

Wherever there is skin, a mole can form – meaning they can develop in even inconspicuous places, like under your nails and on the scalp.

Is it normal for moles to change over time?

Short answer: Yes.

“There are normal changes that can occur in moles,” Kohen says. “For example, moles on the face can start out as brown patches, and over time as we grow older, these moles can raise up, lose color and simply become flesh-colored bumps.”

Moles can lighten or darken in color, and raise or flatten. Sometimes, moles can even disappear altogether.

Environmental factors we’re exposed to on a daily basis, like UV light from the sun or indoor tanning and radiation — and even certain medications — can make moles more likely to develop changes or irregularities.

What changes should you look out for?

There are a few indications that a change in your moles could be concerning, Dr. Kohen says.

First, if a mole has multiple colors in it, it could be cause for concern.

“If you have a mole that started out as brown in color and suddenly has black or red (or both) in it, you should get it checked out by your dermatologist,” she says.

If you notice moles that are spontaneously bleeding, this could be another sign that something isn’t right. But before you jump to conclusions – this bleeding could simply be caused by accidental scratching or a mole getting caught on clothing, too. However, it’s best to get a professional evaluation.

In addition, if you notice your moles are continuing to grow into adulthood, you should see a specialist.

“Moles in children and teens continue to grow in proportion to the person, but at some point that growth should stop,” Kohen says. “If you notice a mole that looks like it’s getting bigger, especially as an adult in your 40’s and 50’s, you should have it checked out.”

Furthermore, developing new moles after age 50 is rare. If you notice new moles appearing on the skin, talk with your dermatologist.

What are the best ways to protect my skin and moles?

You’ve heard it before: The number one protector is sunscreen. Wearing SPF 30 or higher, and re-applying every 2-3 hours is crucial for protecting against skin cancer. But did you know that UV rays can reach our skin even if we are wearing long sleeves and pants?

Choosing photo protective clothing with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) 50 or higher will protect your non-exposed skin from these harmful rays.

“It’s important to remember that melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer – runs in families, so it’s extremely necessary to protect yourself especially if you have a family history of skin cancer,” Kohen says. “Wear enough sunscreen, reapply when necessary and keep tabs on your moles. If you notice changes, check in with your doctor or dermatologist.”

Have concerns about the appearance of your moles? Overdue for a skin cancer screening? Schedule an appointment with a dermatologist by calling 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936) or visiting henryford.com.

Dr. Laurie Kohen is a dermatologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – New Center One and Henry Ford Medical Center – Troy.

How to recognize dangerous moles in time

What skin neoplasms in most cases turn into a malignant tumor, why this happens and how to save your life.

Melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer. Under different guises, she is born from a nevus (mole, birthmark). In the process of development, the tumor rapidly grows through the skin, then, by lymph and blood, it is transferred to other organs. There, new foci appear. The result is death. None of the patients with late-detected melanoma passed the five-year survival limit. Elena Ivannikova, head physician of the Nadzha clinic, tells how to use the life-giving sun rays correctly.

– Elena Nikolaevna, everyone knows that the sun is the basis of life, it gives us strength. Warm days have come and the northerners, hungry for the revitalizing rays of the sun, are taking sun baths. Tell me, maybe the talk about the insecurity of spending time on the beach is greatly exaggerated?

– Of course, in moderate doses, sunlight gives us not only joy and good mood, but also health. It is also a good preventive and therapeutic agent for rickets, stimulates the production of vitamin D, strengthens the immune system, and is beneficial in some chronic skin diseases. Ultraviolet for 10-15 minutes a day is useful.

However, the danger to health lies in excessive solar radiation. And thermal burns, heat strokes, high blood pressure and photoaging are not the biggest problem.

According to the Moscow Scientific Research Institute of Oncology. P. A. Herzen, in the 21st century, the incidence of melanoma in Russia has increased and continues to grow. The incidence of melanoma ranks third among all cancer incidence in Russia. On the first and second lines are lung cancer and breast cancer in women. Meanwhile, this type of skin cancer is often the reverse side of a beautiful tan.

Now many people know that skin cancer can grow from a particular mole. How to distinguish such a dangerous mole?

There are no people without moles. If a mole suddenly changes shape, becomes asymmetrical, has jagged edges, is mottled, or turns black, show it to your doctor. If she began to hurt, itch or bleed – this is also a cause for concern. During life, nevi change during life. If a nevus appeared in childhood and at the age of 30-40 it has not changed, you should show it to the doctor.

A harmless spot is distinguished from melanoma by five signs that are encrypted in the word “ACORD”:

  • A is asymmetry. With an imaginary axis, a safe mole will be divided into two identical parts.
  • K – edge, normally smooth and even.
  • Oh, coloring. There shouldn’t be any bitterness.
  • R is the size. If the mole is larger than 5 mm, observe carefully. The danger increases if it is located on an open area of ​​the body.
  • D – dynamics. If there are wounds, an increase in size and other changes, consult a doctor.

The presence of hair in a mole rather speaks of good quality, but if their loss is suddenly noted, it is worth hurrying to a dermatologist – an oncologist.

In men, “bad” nevi are more often localized on the back. The women are on their feet. Moles located on the palms, feet and in places of friction with shoes and clothes are dangerous.

— What is the most common cause of a mole turning into cancer? And who is more at risk of getting sick?

– A pigmented formation can become cancer after an injury or a sunburn of radiation. The presence of such a terrible diagnosis in relatives increases the risk.

Moles turn into a tumor, under the influence of ultraviolet light, in those who have:

  • light skin (weak adaptation)
  • bright eyes
  • blonde and red hair
  • many moles (over 50) and freckles
  • elderly age.

The risk of getting melanoma in adulthood increases in those who burned under the sun in childhood or more than three times during their lives.

— How to stop melanoma?

“Everyone should be oncologically vigilant about themselves.

Protect exposed skin from the sun. Once every 3-6 months, examine the moles with the help of mirrors and a camera, remember their appearance. If suspicious moles are found, immediately contact a dermatologist to examine the formation using dermatoscopy.

A dermatoscope is an optical device that magnifies the image tenfold. The doctor examines the mole with the help of this optics and assesses the degree of danger. And in its conclusion gives recommendations for treatment or removal. The study is non-traumatic. Safely. It is carried out within 10-15 minutes. Timely dermoscopic examination of moles and detection of melanoma at an early stage in most cases help to prevent further development of the tumor and save human life.

Doctors do not recommend sunbathing from noon to 4 pm. But the northern sun is not as active as the southern one. Perhaps you will give more specific recommendations for our readers?

“Our fellow citizens joke that June is not yet summer in our city, August is no longer summer, and July is as lucky. Indeed, sunny days in our region do not happen as often as we would like, but there are no concessions for us. Sun exposure during peak hours should be avoided.

– Elena Nikolaevna, I know that you worked as a dermatologist for many years. Your spouse is also a doctor. Does your family like to sunbathe? Tell me, probably, you don’t allow your children to sunbathe and avoid beach holidays?

– Not at all. After all, we are ordinary people. Sometimes, like everyone else, we rest in the south. But never forget about protection. Being in the sun, we put on hats with wide brim or “visors”, sunglasses, light light clothes made from natural materials. We do not visit the beach from 11.00 to 16.00. And if you happen to spend time on the beach, then we apply protective agents to open areas of the skin. And children from childhood know the rules of caring for their health. Therefore, they are rather surprised why so many people neglect the simple rules of being on the beach.

— What should be the signal to understand that it is worth hiding in the shadows?

– Any change in normal well-being is a reason to stop sun exposure and seek medical help.

– Pharmacy counters, like television advertising, are full of a large number of skin protection products from UV rays. How to choose the right product that is suitable for your skin?

– It is better to use sunscreens that contain both UVA and UVB filters. In the first days, it is necessary to select a filter that will protect the skin as much as possible from the harmful effects of the sun (SPF 90+, 60+, 50+). Next, choose a sun protection factor that matches your skin type (SPF 30+, 15+).

Remember to apply the product 30 minutes before sun exposure and additionally during prolonged sun exposure, as well as after bathing and drying.

The SPF number does not indicate the quality of protection, but the time that you can stay in the sun without burning.

I would like to add that a reasonable attitude to the sun preserves not only health, but also youthfulness of the skin. After all, skin aging in 80% of cases is premature aging (photoaging). Intensive sunburn is a damaging factor for the skin, leads to dehydration,

coarsening, loss of elasticity and the appearance of spots, which are not easy to get rid of later.

Basic rules for the prevention of skin cancer:

  • don’t be a tanner
  • always protect your skin from the active sun
  • do not injure moles
  • visit a dermatologist-oncologist once a year
  • Examine and remove suspicious skin lesions as directed by your doctor.

Healthy skin is a sign of beauty, take care of it and monitor its condition!

Moles: is it worth it to be afraid?

Almost everyone has some number of moles that usually appear in childhood and adolescence.

Almost everyone has some number of moles that usually appear during childhood and adolescence. The medical name is nevus (naevus maternus), a malformation of the skin, in which certain parts of it differ in color and / or a special warty appearance of the surface.

Many skin and subcutaneous neoplasms are quite common, and a careful examination by an oncologist is sufficient for a preliminary diagnosis. Most skin tumors are benign, but malignant tumors are also not uncommon, so early and accurate diagnosis is extremely important.

To provoke a mole to rebirth, of course, a push, an irritant is needed. The strongest irritant of all possible is excessive exposure to the sun.
Ultraviolet irradiation in high doses causes irreversible changes in skin cells, greatly increasing the risk of their degeneration. For each person, the critical amount of insolation is purely individual. It is not easy to determine this line, so it is better to just remember that prolonged exposure to the sun is harmful to the body. The skin is forced to protect itself from ultraviolet radiation. Excessive tanning is inevitable burns that “hit” the skin’s immunity.

The second most common cause of tumor development is injury to a mole. Therefore, if you touched it with your fingernail, inadvertently damaged it with a washcloth, with some sharp object, especially if these injuries are permanent (for example, from underwear), be sure to see a doctor. Teach your children from childhood to take care of small marks on the skin.
Because birthmarks are very common and melanomas are rare, prophylactic mole removal is not warranted. Look at the mole at an angle, take a magnifying glass: a uniform color, a smooth edge, a transition of the “skin pattern” from an area with a normal color to a pigmented area, the presence of hair is a good sign.

However, if the mole suddenly increases in size (especially if there are uneven edges), darkens, becomes inflamed, becomes mottled, starts to bleed, ulcerates, itches or hurts, the “lacquer” surface of the mole, the special pattern of the edge – alarm!
Having found possible signs of degeneration of a mole, be sure to consult an oncologist.

It is important to remember that all removed moles are subject to mandatory morphological (histological) examination, because the final diagnosis for the morphologist. Only he, through a microscope, knows the danger in person.

Signs of malignant transformation of pigmented neoplasms according to the “BLOW” scheme:
  • Growth acceleration
  • Diameter over 6 mm
  • Asymmetry, irregular shape
  • Multicolour, change in color of one of the sections

More than a hundred oncological diseases are known to science, but melanoma among them is the recognized “insidious and evil queen”. The insidiousness and aggressiveness of this type of skin cancer is unparalleled. Once having arisen, the disease can imperceptibly develop in the superficial layers of the skin for 5–50 (!) years. Then, having chosen the weakest place on the skin – a mole or a pigment spot, single cells of a ripening tumor begin to grow in depth.

In order not to start the problem, you just need to be a little more attentive to yourself and not miss the first alarming symptoms. About how serious your concerns are, you need to consult with an oncologist. Self-treatment of age spots and moles is dangerous, but self-examination is welcome!
In case of any even slight suspicions, it is necessary to visit an oncologist. In such situations, correspondence consultations and consultations of cosmetologists are unacceptable!

What are moles?

Lentigo (marginal) is a flat, evenly pigmented brown to black patch resulting from an increase in the number of melanocytes at the border of the epidermis and dermis (skin layers). Compared to freckles, lentigines are darker and less common; moreover, their color does not increase and the number does not increase under the influence of solar radiation.
Epidermal-dermal nevi are usually flat, but sometimes slightly elevated above the level of the skin. Coloring from light brown to almost black, sizes – from 1 to 10 mm. Birthmarks on the palms, soles, and genital area are usually epidermal-dermal.
Complex nevi – more often have a dark color due to the accumulation of melanocytes and to some extent rise above the level of the skin.
Intradermal nevi elevated above skin level; their color varies from flesh to black, and the surface may be smooth, hairy, or warty.
Sutton’s nevi are pigmented birthmarks (usually complex and intradermal nevi) surrounded by a ring of depigmented (unstained) skin. Sutton’s nevi disappear spontaneously, and only in rare cases give rise to malignant melanomas.
Dysplastic nevi are pigmented spots of irregular shape and indistinct borders, slightly elevated above the level of the skin, their color varies from reddish-brown to dark brown on a pink background.