A Guide to Mole Removal Procedures: Everything You Need to Know (2024)

A Guide to Mole Removal Procedures: Everything You Need to Know (1)

Medically Reviewed By Raechele Cochran Gathers, MD

— Written By Nancy LeBrun

Updated on March 20, 2023

Moles form when cells that give skin its color cluster together. Many moles are harmless and can be left alone. If you have a mole that needs to be removed, here’s what to know.This article explains the reasons for removing a mole, the types of mole removal procedures, and tips for reducing your risks for potential complications.

What is mole removal?

A Guide to Mole Removal Procedures: Everything You Need to Know (2)

Mole removal is a minor procedure that should be done in a doctor’s office to minimize scarring and the risk of infection. After removing the mole, a tissue sample will be sent to a lab for analysis, as some moles can become cancerous.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve products sold for home mole removal. The FDA sent a warning letter Trusted Source Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Governmental authority Go to source in August 2022 to sellers of these products, notifying them the products are unsafe.

The FDA warns of the potential harm and serious risks of these at-home treatments. Risks include infections, injury to the skin, and scarring. Removing a mole at home does not allow checking the mole for possible skin cancer. This potential delay in diagnosing and treating skin cancer can be dangerous.

Why is mole removal performed?

Moles are removed for two basic reasons:

  • Cosmetic: You may want to remove a mole if its location causes you to feel self-conscious. Mole removable may leave you with a noticeable scar.
  • Medical: Doctors recommend removal if a mole has an unusual appearance that could indicate it is cancerous. There are several types of skin cancer, but the one associated with moles is melanoma, the least common but most dangerous.

An atypical mole is new or changed, irregular, has different colors, or is larger than a pencil eraser. If your doctor notes an atypical mole, they will want to send it to a lab for analysis called a biopsy. Doctors use the ABCDEs of melanoma rule to identify atypical moles.

Learn more about the ABCDE rule of skin cancer.

What are the types of mole removal procedures?

There are three basic approaches to mole removal:

  • Excision: A doctor uses a scalpel to remove the mole. Stitches may be necessary to close the area.
  • Shave: A doctor uses a sterile, specialized razor blade to shave off the mole.
  • Punch: A doctor uses a special surgical tool similar to a paper hole cutter to “punch out” a circle cut around the mole to remove it.

Most doctors don’t recommend freezing or burning moles off because this destroys tissues and does not leave a tissue sample that can be sent to a lab.

How is mole removal performed?

If your doctor examines your skin and sees an atypical mole, they may photograph it to monitor it for changes when you come back for a follow-up visit.

If the mole changes or grows, your doctor will recommend removal and biopsy. In some cases, they will want to remove the mole without waiting.

Mole removal involves a few basic steps. The doctor will:

  • Mark the area with a special surgical marking pen.
  • Inject a local anesthetic, which will numb the area, so you don’t feel any pain or discomfort.
  • Cut around and under the mole, often using a technique that will minimize scarring by cutting in the same direction as your skin creases.
  • If necessary, cauterize the area with a heated instrument to stop bleeding.
  • If needed, stitch the wound with sutures. Doctors may also use a special surgical glue to hold the cut together.
  • Put a dressing over the area if needed.

You can leave following the procedure. The doctor’s staff will provide instructions on how to care for the area.

What can I expect after mole removal?

After mole removal, follow your doctor’s care recommendations. Generally, you can remove the bandage, if you have one, in a day or two. Wash and dry the site gently once or twice a day.

Mole removal: Before and after

A Guide to Mole Removal Procedures: Everything You Need to Know (3)

Single mole removal

People sometimes have moles removed for cosmetic reasons. Minor scarring is possible.

sruilk/Shutterstock

A Guide to Mole Removal Procedures: Everything You Need to Know (4)

Multiple mole removal

People sometimes have moles removed for cosmetic reasons. Minor scarring is possible.

Mountcastle Plastic Surgery & Vein Institute -Dr. Timothy

If you have stitches, you’ll need to return to the office to have them removed unless they are self-dissolving stitches. It usually takes 2–3 weeks for the area to heal.

Your doctor will send a tissue sample to a lab to examine it for cancerous cells. Your doctor will contact you with the results. If the cells are normal, additional treatment is usually not needed.

If the cells appear abnormal or could be cancerous, your dermatologist will work with you on a treatment plan.

Who performs mole removal?

Mole removal should be performed by a dermatologist or other medical professional, sometimes a plastic surgeon.

You should not attempt mole removal yourself. It is unsafe as the risk of infection is higher. If the tissue is not analyzed for skin cancer, this can delay an important diagnosis.

What are the risks and potential complications of mole removal?

A few risks are involved with mole removal when done by a doctor. Most are unlikely, and severe complications are rare. Risks include:

  • reaction to the anesthetic, including a headache or dizziness
  • bleeding more than expected
  • injury to nerves or salivary glands if the mole goes deep into the skin
  • scarring, usually minor
  • infection
  • delays in healing

You can reduce your risk for complications with these tips:

  • Tell your doctor about all your medications and supplements because some may increase bleeding.
  • Talk with your dermatologist if you have scarring concerns or a history of keloids.
  • Call your doctor’s office if you notice any discharge, swelling, or redness after mole removal. These symptoms may indicate infection.

Summary

Moles develop when a special type of skin cell clusters together. Nearly everyone develops at least one mole in their life. Mole removal is a simple in-office procedure in which a doctor removes the mole using one of several surgical techniques. Your doctor will numb the area before removing the mole, so the procedure is not painful.

Complications are rare, and mole removal usually leaves only a minor scar. After mole removal, a tissue sample is sent to the lab to check for cancerous cells.

Most moles are not cancerous. It is still important to do regular home skin checks and schedule annual skin checks with your doctor. If you see a mole that has changed in appearance, see your dermatologist or primary care physician.

A Guide to Mole Removal Procedures: Everything You Need to Know (2024)
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