Is an Itchy Mole a Symptom of Skin Cancer?

An itchy mole can have a range of causes. For example, using a new personal care product that irritates your skin can make a mole itch. However, an itchy mole can also be a warning sign of skin cancer.

This article will go over what causes itchy moles. You'll also learn how to assess whether a mole could be melanoma skin cancer.

causes of itchy mole

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

What Are Moles?

Moles arise from cells in the skin called melanocytes. These cells are responsible for skin and hair color and the tan we get when out in the sun.

Moles, also described as nevi, are extremely common. The vast majority of moles do not turn into skin cancer. They usually arise before you reach your 20s, and some are present at birth.

Congenital nevi, those present at birth, are more likely to develop into melanoma. That said, it's important to keep an eye on all skin growths and note any changes.

Recap

Many people have moles on their skin. Some are born with these moles while others develop new ones. In most cases, a mole will not lead to skin cancer or melanoma.

Causes and Risk Factors

There are a number of reasons why a mole could become itchy, and cancer is not at the top of the list.

This irritation could be caused by dry skin, peeling due to a sunburn, or chemicals applied to your skin. The itchy feeling might also be caused by changes within the mole, and that may require more attention.

Questions to Ask Yourself When You Have an Itchy Mole

If you have an itchy mole, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you using a new laundry detergent or a new type of fabric softener?
  • Do you use a body lotion with fragrances or chemicals that could be irritating your skin?
  • Have you been spritzing yourself with a new cologne, aftershave, or body spray?
  • Are you using sunless tanning products?
  • Are you being exposed to any chemicals on the job?

Answering yes to any of these questions may be the cause of an itchy mole. However, if your mole continues to be itchy after eliminating the possible cause, have it examined by your healthcare provider. They will want to check it to be sure it is not a symptom of melanoma.

It's normal for moles to change during puberty and pregnancy. Changes at other times in life should be carefully observed and brought to the attention of a healthcare provider.

Some people have a large number of moles. Some may only have a few. Moles tend to run in families, so if your parents have many moles, you are more likely to have quite a few.

The science remains unclear on why some moles will develop into cancer while others do not. Risk factors include:

  • Being fair-skinned
  • Having a large number of moles
  • Excess sun exposure
  • Environmental factors
  • Family history of melanoma

Changes in genes, or mutations, have only been implicated in around 1% of melanomas. Still, studies suggest that more than half of a person's risk of melanoma is related to genetic factors.

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The ABCDE Rule of Melanoma

ABCDE Rule of Skin Cancer

A mole that is new or has recently changed in appearance should be evaluated by a healthcare provider who specializes in dermatology.

The ABCDE rule can help you determine if changes in a mole indicate a problem. These characteristics include:

  • Asymmetry: Noncancerous moles are usually symmetrical, meaning one side of the mole looks similar to the other. Most skin cancer spots will not look the same on both sides.
  • Border: The borders of cancerous moles may be uneven, jagged, or blurry.
  • Color: Noncancerous moles are uniform in color. Cancerous moles have different colors or shades. Melanomas often have a classic "red, white, and blue" appearance.
  • Diameter: Moles larger than a pencil eraser—about 1/4 inch, or 6 millimeters (mm)—are considered abnormal. This includes a mole that you have had since birth.
  • Evolution or elevation: Evolution means a change in symmetry, borders, colors, or diameter of an existing mole. Elevation is when a mole rises above your skin, especially if it is uneven.

The ABCDE Rule

How do you look for abnormal changes in moles that might suggest skin cancer? The ABCDE rule is meant to help people remember the characteristics that may be cause for concern.

Itching, bleeding, or oozing from the mole is a cause for concern. So is any mole area that looks like a scrape but isn't healing in a reasonable amount of time. Sometimes, a new or odd sensation in the region near a mole can be an early symptom of melanoma.

Moles vs. Melanoma

It can be hard to tell the difference between melanoma and colored moles. Photos of moles and melanomas show just how tricky this can be. A healthcare provider who specializes in dermatology (skin conditions) can decide whether your mole needs to be examined with a biopsy to find out.

Skin Cancer Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Man

Estimating Your Melanoma Risk

Melanomas account for around 1% of skin cancers. While rare, they are responsible for most skin cancer deaths. This is why it is important to see a healthcare provider if you notice any changes in an existing or new mole.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI), the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California, San Francisco designed a tool as an aid for healthcare providers to identify people who have a higher risk of melanoma.

Your healthcare provider can use this interactive tool to estimate your risk of developing melanoma. It helps them plan appropriate screenings based on your risk. Factors included in this assessment tool include:

  • Age
  • Complexion
  • How your skin tans
  • Ethnicity
  • Freckling (absent, mild, moderate, or severe)
  • Gender
  • Geographic location
  • Moles (amount)

The chance of a cure for melanoma is vastly greater when the cancer is found in the early stages of the disease.

Summary

Many people have moles, which begin in skin cells called melanocytes. Some of these moles, called congenital nevi, are there at birth. They also tend to run in families, and both factors contribute to the risk that changes in a mole, like itchiness, may be linked to skin cancer.

In most cases, moles do not develop into cancer. They may become itchy for reasons as simple as using new laundry soap or tanning lotion.

It's essential to have an abnormal or itchy mole checked by a healthcare provider who specializes in dermatology. They can spot changes that are cause for concern. This includes changes in symmetry, color, shape, size, height, and borders of the mole.

A Word From Verywell

It is important for you to check your skin monthly and have a yearly clinical skin exam by a healthcare provider. Remember, if you find anything abnormal, report it to your healthcare provider as soon as possible, and don't wait for your next yearly check-up.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is an itchy mole a sign of skin cancer?

    It could be, but there are several more common reasons why a mole or the surrounding skin might be itchy. Possible signs of cancer include asymmetrical borders, having more than one color, large size, and the formation of a sore that scabs but doesn’t heal.

  • Can I shave off an itchy mole?

    No. Don’t try to remove a mole yourself. Cutting it off can lead to an infection. Have your dermatologist remove it if it’s irritating, worrisome, or you don’t like it. Your healthcare provider can also check to see if it is something more severe than a blemish.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Congenital nevus (mole).

  2. Anderson S, Meade B. Potential health effects associated with dermal exposure to occupational chemicals. Env Health Insights. 2014;8(Suppl 1):51-62. doi:10.4137/EHI.S15258

  3. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Melanoma: symptoms and signs.

  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine Genetics Home Reference. Are moles determined by genetics?

  5. Linares MA, Zakaria A, Nizran P. Skin cancer. Prim Care. 2015;42(4):645-659. doi:10.1016/j.pop.2015.07.006

  6. American Cancer Society. Key statistics for melanoma skin cancer.

  7. National Cancer Institute. Genetics of skin cancer (PDQ) - health professional version.

  8. Daniel Jensen J, Elewski BE. The ABCDEF rule: Combining the "abcde rule" and the "ugly duckling sign" in an effort to improve patient self-screening examinations. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2015;8(2):15. PMID:25741397

  9. Skin Cancer Foundation. Melanoma warning signs.

  10. National Cancer Institute. Melanoma risk assessment tool.

  11. Moffitt Cancer Center. Is skin cancer itchy?

  12. American Academy of Dermatology Association. When is a mole a problem?

Additional Reading

By Brandi Jones, MSN-ED RN-BC
Brandi is a nurse and the owner of Brandi Jones LLC. She specializes in health and wellness writing including blogs, articles, and education.

Originally written by Lisa Fayed