Learn the Potential Causes for an Itchy Mole

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An itchy mole could be a result of changes in your daily routine, but it can also be a warning sign of something more serious that deserves prompt attention.

There are several causes of itchy moles. Melanoma, which accounts for around 1% of skin cancers, and is responsible for most skin cancer deaths is one cause you wouldn't want to miss. This is why it is important to seek medical attention if you notice any sensory changes or altered appearance of any of your moles.

causes of itchy mole

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Understanding Moles

Moles, also described as nevi, are extremely common, and the vast majority of moles do not turn into melanoma. They usually arise before you reach your 20's, 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, but changes at other times 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 the tan we get when we go out in the sun. Some people have a large number of moles, and some may only have a few. They tend to run in families, so if your parents have many moles, you are more likely to have many moles as well.

We don't know exactly why some moles turn cancerous, 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

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

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 chemicals that are applied to your skin, dryness of your skin, peeling due to a sunburn, and other reasons. This sensation, however, could also be caused by changes within the mole itself, and changing moles deserve our 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. Even if you think you've determined the cause, however, if your mole is persistently itchy, you should have it examined by your healthcare provider. In some cases, an itchy mole can be a symptom of melanoma.

If you are due for a regular check-up, that's one more reason to make the appointment. But it's also worth its own appointment to have checked.

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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.

The ABCDE rule of skin cancer is a mnemonic that helps people look for the concerning characteristics of abnormal moles.

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, and diameter of an existing mole. Elevation refers to a mole that projects above your skin, especially unevenly.
  • Funny looking: Some healthcare providers add yet another letter to the sequence to describe something that is intuitive rather than easily measured. Melanomas, when compared to normal moles, simply look abnormal at times. This is where you need to trust your gut, and our instincts are often correct.

Itching, bleeding, oozing from the mole, or an area that appears to be a scrape but isn't healing in a reasonable amount of time are causes for concern. Sometimes an unusual or new 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 difficult to distinguish colored moles from melanoma. Photos of moles and melanomasshow just how tricky this can be. Your dermatologist will decide whether your mole needs to be examined with a biopsy.

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 absolute risk of developing invasive 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 assists clinicians in identifying individuals at increased risk of melanoma.

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

A Word From Verywell

You should know that not all abnormal or itchy moles are cancerous. If you have an abnormal or itchy mole, it is very important to have it checked by a dermatologist. An untrained eye cannot determine if a mole is likely to be cancerous or not.

It is important for you to check your skin monthly and have a yearly clinical skin exam by a healthcare provider. During a clinical skin exam, a healthcare provider visually examines the skin to look for any new developments or changes to existing moles or spots. 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 changes in the coloring, spreading, asymmetrical borders, 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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Article Sources
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  1. American Cancer Society. Key statistics for melanoma skin cancer. Updated August 14, 2019.

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

  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine Genetics Home Reference. Are moles determined by genetics? Updated December 2017.

  4. National Cancer Institute. Genetics of skin cancer (PDQ) - health professional version. Updated January 3, 2020.

  5. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Melanoma: symptoms and signs. Updated January 2019.

  6. Skin Cancer Foundation. Melanoma warning signs. Updated April 2019.

  7. National Cancer Institute. Melanoma risk assessment tool.

  8. Moffitt Cancer Center. Is Skin Cancer Itchy? Published January 23, 2019.

  9. American Academy of Dermatology Association. When Is a Mole a Problem?

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