Moles are common skin growths. You probably have more than one on your face and body. Most people have 10 to 40 moles somewhere on their skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Most moles are harmless and nothing to worry about. Unless a mole is cancerous, you don’t need to have it removed unless it bothers you. But if you don’t like the way it affects your appearance, or if it’s getting irritated from rubbing against your clothes, removing the mole is still an option.
The best way to know if a mole is cancerous is to see a dermatologist for an annual skin cancer screening. If you have a history of skin cancer, your dermatologist may recommend screening more often.
Meanwhile, you should schedule a checkup with your dermatologist if you notice any moles that:
- are asymmetrical
- have irregular borders
- are not uniform in color
- have a diameter that’s larger than a pencil eraser
- are evolving or changing in size, shape, or color
These are known as the ABCDEs of mole checks.
These types of moles should be evaluated by a dermatologist, who can then decide if they should be tested for skin cancer.
A dermatologist can typically remove a mole during a routine office visit. Sometimes a follow-up visit is necessary to complete a mole removal.
Two main types of surgical procedures are used for mole removal:
- Freezing. This procedure uses a small amount of liquid nitrogen to remove a noncancerous mole.
- Burning. This procedure uses an electric current to burn off the upper layers of a noncancerous mole. It may take more than one session to complete the mole removal.
- Shaving. This procedure involves using a surgical blade to shave the mole off the skin’s surface.
- Excision. This procedure goes deeper than shaving to excise the entire mole and stitch the skin back together. This type of removal is typically used if the mole is cancerous.
If necessary, your dermatologist can evaluate the mole that’s been removed for skin cancer.
A number of websites offer “do-it-yourself” tips for removing a mole at home. These methods are not proven to work, and some may be dangerous. You should talk with your doctor about your options before you try any home remedies for mole removal.
Some of these unproven methods include:
- burning the mole off with apple cider vinegar
- taping garlic to the mole to break it down from the inside
- applying iodine to the mole to kill the cells inside
- cutting off the mole with scissors or a razor blade
Other home remedies that claim to remove moles include applying:
- a mixture of baking soda and castor oil
- banana peel
- frankincense oil
- tea tree oil
- hydrogen peroxide
- aloe vera
- flaxseed oil
Pharmacies and online stores also sell mole removal creams. To use these creams, you first scrape off the top part of the mole. Then you rub the cream into the mole. The products claim that within a day after applying the cream, a scab will form. When the scab falls off, the mole will go with it.
That said, you should never remove a mole at home. Mole removal should be done by a medical professional like a dermatologist, who can send it to a lab to be evaluated for cancer.
A safer way to conceal moles if you’re self-conscious about them is to cover them with makeup. If you have a hair growing out of a mole, it’s safe for you to clip the hair or pluck it.
Home mole removal methods sound pretty easy and convenient. You might be tempted to try one of these techniques to avoid a visit to your dermatologist’s office. Yet there’s no evidence that home treatments for mole removal work, and some of them could be dangerous.
Removing moles by cutting them off with a sharp object like scissors or a razor blade carries risks, too. Cutting off any growth increases your risk of infection, especially if the tool you use is not properly sanitized. You can also create a permanent scar where the mole once was.
Another risk of removing a mole yourself is that you can’t tell if a mole is cancerous. A mole could be melanoma. If you don’t have a dermatologist test the mole and it is cancerous, it could spread throughout your body and become life threatening.
See a dermatologist if you want to remove a mole that bothers you. And definitely schedule a checkup if any moles have changed, which could be a sign of skin cancer. The doctor can do a biopsy, which is removing a small piece of the mole to test under a microscope to see if it’s cancerous.
If you have a mole that isn’t changing and doesn’t bother you, the best thing to do is to leave it alone. But if you don’t like the way the mole affects your appearance or if your clothes are irritating it, see a dermatologist to remove it safely.
Also be sure to see a dermatologist if the mole has changed color, size, or shape, or if it scabs over. These could be signs of skin cancer. Getting a potentially cancerous mole checked out and removed could prevent the cancer from spreading.