Moles are small, coloured spots on the skin. Most people have them and they're usually nothing to worry about unless they change size, shape or colour.

Check if your mole could be cancerous

Signs of harmless moles

A harmless, raised, brown mole on white skin.
Most harmless moles are round or oval-shaped, with a smooth edge.
A harmless, flat, brown mole on pink skin.
They can be flat or raised and may feel smooth or rough.
A harmless, raised, dark brown mole with hairs growing from it on white skin.
Sometimes they have hair growing from them.
A harmless, black mole on the upper lip of someone with medium brown skin.
They are usually darker on brown and black skin.

It's normal for:

Signs a mole could be cancerous

Some moles can be a sign of melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

A melanoma with brown and black patches on white skin.
Melanomas may change colour over time or have more than 2 colours.
A melanoma which is brown with a black area and uneven borders on white skin
They often have uneven edges.
A pink melanoma that's raised and has a black and brown crust on white skin.
Sometimes they may bleed, itch, or be crusty or raised.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you have a mole that's changed size, shape or colour
  • you have a mole that's painful or itchy
  • you have a mole that's inflamed, bleeding or crusty
  • you have a new or unusual mark on your skin that has not gone away after a few weeks

Finding a melanoma as early as possible can mean it's easier to treat

Treatments for moles

Moles only need treating if they're a sign of melanoma.

If the GP thinks your mole is melanoma, you'll be referred to a specialist in hospital. You should get an appointment within 2 weeks.

The main treatment for melanoma is surgery to remove the mole.

Cosmetic mole removal

Most moles are harmless. Harmless moles are not usually treated on the NHS.

You can pay a private clinic to remove a mole, but it may be expensive.

How to prevent cancerous moles

UV light from the sun can increase the chance of a mole becoming cancerous. If you have lots of moles, you need to be extra careful in the sun.

It's important to check your moles regularly for any changes.

There are some things you can do to protect your moles from sun damage, especially during hot weather.


  • stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm, when sunlight is strongest

  • cover skin with clothes – wear a hat and sunglasses if you have moles on your face

  • regularly apply a high-factor sunscreen (minimum SPF30) and apply it again after swimming


  • do not use sunlamps or sunbeds – they use UV light


Find out more about sunscreen and sun safety

Page last reviewed: 4 July 2023
Next review due: 4 July 2026