Learn the Potential Causes for an Itchy Mole

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There are several possible causes if you have an itchy mole. It could be a result of simple changes in your daily routine. But it can also be a warning sign of something more serious that deserves prompt attention.

Melanoma, which accounts for around 1% of skin cancers, is one cause you wouldn't want to miss. It is responsible for most skin cancer deaths. This is why it is important to see a healthcare provider if you notice any changes in a skin mole, and certainly if you see a new one.

This article explains why a mole might become itchy and what the possible causes are. It also will help you to understand when it might be important to see a professional for advice.

causes of itchy mole

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Understanding Moles

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 may be present from birth.

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

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.

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

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 as well.

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.

Recap

Many people have moles on their skin. Either they were born with these moles, or they develop new ones. In most cases, a mole will not lead to skin cancer, or melanoma.

Possible Causes of an Itchy Mole

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

Itching is caused by irritation of nerves in the skin.

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

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 that contains fragrances or other 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?

Think about what products you use and how they may cause skin irritation. Also, consider exposure to any cleaning products you use in your home or in the garage.

All of these can be possible causes of an itchy mole. You may sort through them and think you've determined the cause. However, if your mole continues to be itchy, you should have it examined by your healthcare provider to be sure it is not a symptom of melanoma.

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The ABCDE Rule of Melanoma

ABCDE Rule of Skin Cancer Symptoms

A mole that is new or has recently changed in appearance should be evaluated by a dermatologist.

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.

Changes that could indicate a problem include:

  • Asymmetry: Normal moles or freckles are usually symmetrical. If you were to draw a line through a normal spot, you would have two similar halves. In cases of skin cancer, spots will not look the same on both sides.
  • Border: The borders or edges of an abnormal or cancerous mole may be uneven, jagged, or blurry. Normal moles usually have a smooth, rounded border.
  • Color: Normal moles are uniform in color. Moles are considered to be abnormal when they are more than one color or shade. This can include lightening or darkening of the mole. Healthcare providers refer to melanomas as often having a classic "red, white, and blue" appearance.
  • Diameter: If a mole is larger than a pencil eraser—about 1/4 inch, or 6 millimeters (mm)—it is considered to be abnormal. This includes moles that do not have any other abnormalities (color, border, asymmetry). This is even more important if it is a mole that you have had since birth.
  • Evolution or elevation: Evolution refers to any changes in the symmetry, borders, colors, or diameter of an existing mole. Elevation refers to a mole that rises above your skin, especially if it is uneven.
  • Funny looking: Some healthcare providers add yet another letter to the sequence to describe something that is more intuitive than easily measured. Melanomas, when compared to normal moles, simply look abnormal at times. This is where you need to trust your gut, because instincts are often correct.

Itching, bleeding, or oozing from the mole is 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.

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

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 dermatologist, a physician who specializes in skin diseases, can decide whether your mole needs to be examined with a biopsy to find out.

dermal nevus
Normal dermal nevus (mole).

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

junctional nevus
Junctional nevus (mole).

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

meyerson nevus
Meyerson nevus (mole).

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

compound nevus
Compound nevus (mole).

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

melanoma
Melanoma.

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

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

Estimating Your Melanoma Risk

In order to estimate a person's risk of developing melanoma, an interactive tool has been designed by scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California, San Francisco. The tool is an aid for clinicians as they identify people who have a higher risk of melanoma.

Your healthcare provider can use this tool or other tools to plan appropriate screenings for you based on your risk.

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, though, moles do not develop into cancer. They may become itchy for reasons as simple as using a new laundry soap or trying a tanning lotion. It's important to have an abnormal or itchy mole checked by a dermatologist who can spot any changes that are cause for concern. These changes may include the color, shape, and size of the mole, as well as any odd patterns.

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. If it’s irritating, worrisome, or you just don’t like it, have your dermatologist remove it. Your healthcare provider can also check to see if it is something more serious than a blemish.

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

  2. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Congenital nevus (mole).

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

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

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

  6. Skin Cancer Foundation. Melanoma warning signs.

  7. National Cancer Institute. Melanoma risk assessment tool.

  8. Moffitt Cancer Center. Is skin cancer itchy?

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

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