Learn the Potential Causes for an Itchy Mole

You have to consider multiple factors when trying to determine why you have an itchy mole. In many cases, it could be a result of changes in your daily routine. In others, it could be a warning sign of something more serious that deserves prompt attention.

Let's take a look at moles (to make sure that is what itches), some of the possible causes, and then review what you should be looking for on your skin if you are concerned about a melanoma. After all, melanoma accounts for only around 5 percent of skin cancers, but it is responsible for most skin cancer deaths.

Understanding Moles

Moles, or "nevi" are extremely common, and the vast majority of moles do not turn into melanoma. They usually arise in the first two decades of life, though some may be present from birth. These moles, termed "congenital nevi," are more likely than moles that develop after birth to develop into melanoma. That said, it's important to keep an eye on any "growths" on your skin, mole or not, and to note any changes.

Changes are normal in moles during puberty and pregnancy, but changes at other times should be carefully observed, and brought to the attention of a physician.

Moles arise from cells in the skin called melanocytes, the cells 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 do 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, having excess sun exposure, certain environmental factors, and having a family history of melanoma. While gene mutations have only been implicated in around 1 percent of melanomas, studies suggest that up to 55 percent of a person's risk of melanoma is related to genetic factors.

Melanoma Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Possible Causes of an Itchy Mole

There are a large 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?
  • What about sunless tanning products that you recently began to use?
  • Are you being to exposed to any chemicals or spray 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 certainly have it examined by your doctor. 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.

ABCDE Rule of Skin Cancer Symptoms

A mole that is new or has recently changed in appearance, such as becoming elevated, definitely needs to 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.

It's worth committing this rule to memory:

  • Asymmetry: Normal moles or freckles are completely symmetrical. If you were to draw a line through a normal spot, you would have two symmetrical 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.
  • 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. Physicians 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 6mm), 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 unevenly above your skin.
  • Funny looking: Some doctors 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 is a symptom that can be added to this list that is of some concern, as is any bleeding or oozing from the mole, or an area that appears to be a scrape but isn't healing in a reasonable amount of time. In addition to itching, some people with melanoma state that they felt not itching, nor pain, but some type of sensation in the region of their mole that they had not felt before.

Moles vs Melanoma

Sometimes it can be difficult for distinguish colored moles from melanoma, even for primary care physicians. Photos of moles and melanomas show just how tricky this can be for an untrained eye. That's essentially a long-winded way to say that any mole or skin lesion that has you questioning its appearance at all, should be evaluated by a dermatologist.

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 has been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and assists clinicians in identifying individuals at increased risk of melanoma. In this way, they can help their patients plan appropriate screening interventions.

A Word From Verywell

You should know that not all abnormal or itchy moles are cancerous. If you do have an abnormal or itchy mole, it is very important to have it checked out 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 doctor.

During a clinical skin exam, a doctor 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 doctor as soon as possible and don't wait for your next yearly check-up.

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