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Understanding Mole Excision

Moles are skin growths that are darker or more raised than the nearby skin. They're common and not usually a problem. But moles can sometimes cause problems. In this case, removal (excision) of a problem mole can be done by a healthcare provider. Never try to remove a mole on your own.

Why mole excision is done

Your healthcare provider may do a mole excision for:

  • Part or all of a suspicious mole may be removed to check it for cancer.

  • A mole that is constantly rubbed by clothing or irritated in other ways can be removed to help make you more comfortable.

  • A mole that is large or on a visible body part can be removed if you don't like how it looks.

How mole excision is done

Removing a mole is often done in the healthcare provider’s office. You stay awake for it and go home the same day.

  • The area is cleaned. A tiny needle is then used to inject a numbing medicine into the skin around the mole.

  • The healthcare provider cuts out the mole. An edge or margin of healthy tissue around the mole may also be removed to make sure no pre-cancer or cancer cells are left behind.

  • If needed, the incision may be closed with stitches or staples.

In most cases, the removed mole is sent to a lab for testing. Your provider will let you know if cancer cells are found.

If the mole comes back after it was removed, see a dermatologist right away. This could be a sign of a dangerous skin cancer called melanoma.

Risks of mole excision

  • Scarring or keloid (too much scar tissue forms)

  • Swelling and bruising

  • Infection

  • Pain

  • Incomplete removal of the mole. This means more surgery may be needed or the mole might come back.

  • Damage to nearby nerves

Most of these risks can be managed and get better over time, but some can be long lasting. Talk with your healthcare provider so you know what to expect.

Preventing skin cancer

To help protect yourself from skin cancer:

  • Check your skin regularly for changes in your moles and for new moles.

  • See your healthcare provider if you have a mole that bleeds, itches, or changes in size, color, or shape.

  • If you have many moles or have a family history of skin cancer, have moles checked by your healthcare provider at least once a year.

  • Stay out of the sun from 10 am to 4 pm. This is when the UV rays are the strongest.

  • Use clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants, to protect your skin from the sun. Some clothing has UPF (UV-protection factor) that provides more protection.

  • Use sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher to protect your skin from the sun. Make sure the sunscreen has broad spectrum protection. This protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

  • Wear a hat and sunglasses when in the sun to protect your scalp, face, eyes, and ears.

  • Never use tanning beds or lamps.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Kimberly Stump-Sutliff RN MSN AOCNS
Online Medical Reviewer: Michael Lehrer MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2022
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