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Mole on woman's back.

Mole on woman's back.
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2-minute read

What are moles?

Moles are small, dark marks that appear on your skin. They are usually round or oval in shape and can sometimes be raised from the skin. Most people have about 50 moles.

Most moles are harmless but some types can develop into skin cancer. This is usually caused by long periods of exposure to the sun.

It is important to watch your moles to prevent skin cancer. See your doctor if any mole grows or changes appearance.

If you have a mole you should:

  • avoid scratching or picking it — keeping children’s fingernails short and trimmed may help stop them scratching their moles
  • if your mole is in a vulnerable area where it could be knocked or scraped against something, you should try to protect it

Checking your moles

It’s important to look out for any changes to the shape, size and colour of your moles. Check your moles regularly and look out for the following:

  • changes to the size and shape of your moles
  • any changes to the colour of a mole — look out for moles that have several colours or shades
  • any bleeding, soreness, itching, weeping or inflammation
  • a crusty or flaky appearance developing
  • an outline that looks notched
  • new moles which look different or unusual

If any of the above are occurring or you are worried about a mole, get your doctor to check it out.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your moles, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2019

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