Moles on the skin affect people of all ages and backgrounds. It is not uncommon to have these marks in varying places on your body, and in general, moles are not cause for concern. However, moles should be watched and reviewed at least annually, as any irregularities may be a cause for concern.

What are Moles?

Moles are skin growths composed of pigment producing skin cells. While these can be anywhere on the body, many are on sun-exposed areas such as the arms, back, legs and face. Most moles appear by age 20 and are harmless.

Types of Moles


  • round or oval
  • brown, even colour
  • flat or slightly raised
  • smaller than pencil eraser

Atypical (abnormal)

  • unusual in colour or shape
  • larger than pencil eraser


  • present from birth or shortly after
  • may grow larger, darker or lighter

What Causes Moles?

  • Genes
  • Sunlight

An easy way to remember the specific warning signs of an atypical mole on the skin is the “ABCDEs of Melanoma” that many skin cancer organizations use:

A for Asymmetry – two halves of the mole don’t match

B for Border – uneven or ‘scalloped’ edges

C for Colour – multiple colours (black, red, blue grey or white within the lesion)

D for Diameter – larger than 6mm (1/4”)

E for Evolving – any change in size, shape, colour or any new symptoms, i.e. bleeding or itching

Who is Affected by Moles?

  • Light-coloured skin types (1)
  • Most people have a few (2)

Related Problems

You have a higher risk for getting melanoma skin cancer if you have:

  • Many moles – more than 50
  • History of skin cancer – either personal or familial
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • History of sun burns or tanning bed use – particularly during youth
  • Large and/or unusual moles
  • A very large mole present from birth
  • A change in colour, shape or size of a mole

Potential Mole Removal Treatments 

  • Surgical excision
  • Laser

Note: Certain treatments for medical conditions that are considered to be elective and/or cosmetic are not covered by Medical Services Plan of BC.

If you are concerned about an atypical mole on your skin or are looking to have a mole removed, make an appointment with one of our dermatologists in Vancouver.

Patient Resources
American Academy of Dermatology
Mayo Clinic
Dermweb, Department of Dermatology and Skin Science, University of British Columbia
 (1 & 2) American Academy of Dermatology, Moles

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