Moles, Beauty Marks or Nevi

We all have “moles.” The average person has 15, but many people have 40 or 50 moles. The medical term is nevus (plural: nevi), the common term is “mole.” “Beauty mark” is probably the best term, if you have one or two, and they are not too big and not on the tip of your nose!


A small number of moles are present on the skin at birth (congenital nevi) . They are skin-colored, tan or brown. But, most moles are acquired and develop from age four or five to around age 40. As you get older, your moles may get larger and frequently darker, especially in sunlight-exposed areas. Puberty and pregnancy can also make moles darker. Any “mole” that develops after age 40 should be biopsied.

The vast majority of moles are benign, and never become cancerous. Most require no treatment. If your mole is large, unsightly, or irritated by clothing or shoes, it may be advisable to have it removed. Around 20% of Caucasians have dysplastic nevi. These are moles with atypical appearances. Please see the handout on these.

If your mole bleeds,itches, becomes painful or suddenly changes in size, shape or color, it should be examined.

Frequently, examination of the mole will be sufficient to determine the nature of the mole. If there is any question of a cancerous change, a biopsy will be taken. A microscopic examination of the tissue is the best way to be certain if cancer is present. If cancer is found, additional treatment may be required, either surgery, x-ray, anticancer creams, etc. If this is the case, you will be contacted to return to the office for more treatment.


Most moles can be removed by surgery. Occasionally they can be shaved off. Large moles are best removed by a plastic surgeon.

If you have any doubts about your mole, it is best to have it checked.