Moles are very common, and most people have one or more. Moles are concentrations of pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) in your skin. People with light skin tend to have more moles.

The technical name for a mole is nevus (plural: nevi). It comes from the Latin word for birthmark.

The cause of moles isn’t well understood. It’s thought to be an interaction of genetic factors and sun damage in most cases.

Moles usually emerge in childhood and adolescence, and change in size and color as you grow. New moles commonly appear at times when your hormone levels change, such as during pregnancy.

Most moles are less than 1/4 inch in diameter. Mole color ranges from pink to dark brown or black. They can be anywhere on your body, alone or in groups

Types of moles

Congenital moles

These moles are called birthmarks and vary widely in size, shape, and color. About 0.2 to 2.1 percent of infants are born with a congenital mole.

Some birthmarks may be treated for cosmetic reasons when the child is older, for example, age 10 to 12 and better able to tolerate local anesthetic. Treatment options include:

  • surgery
  • skin resurfacing (dermabrasion)
  • skin shaving (excision) of top skin layers
  • chemical peel for lightening
  • laser ablation for lightening

Acquired moles (also called common moles)

Acquired moles are those that appear on your skin after you’re born. They’re also known as common moles. They can appear anywhere on your skin.

People with fair skin can normally have between 10 and 40 of these moles.

Common moles are usually:

  • round or oval
  • flat or slightly raised or sometimes dome-shaped
  • smooth or rough
  • one color (tan, brown, black, red, pink, blue, or skin-colored)
  • unchanging
  • small (1/4 inch or less; the size of a pencil eraser)
  • may have hairs


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