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Skin Cancer Explained

Types of moles: See the different types of moles with pictures

Worried about the types of moles on your skin? Read on to explore the different types of moles with pictures and learn what may be considered a suspicious mole.
MoleMap Team
August 15, 2023
10 minutes

Have you got a mole that you’re wor­ried about?

Whether you were born with it or have only noticed it devel­op­ing recent­ly, it’s impor­tant to know what type of mole it may be and what to do if you are con­cerned that it might be suspicious.

In this arti­cle, we’ll take you through the dif­fer­ent types of moles with pic­tures. This will help to give you a bet­ter under­stand­ing of what types of moles are nor­mal and what may be worth get­ting checked.

But first, a disclaimer:

It can be incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult, even to the trained eye, to spot sus­pi­cious or poten­tial­ly can­cer­ous moles. This is why it’s vital to check in with a pro­fes­sion­al for a com­pre­hen­sive mole check like our Full Body MoleMap  service— espe­cial­ly if one of your moles has changed. Dur­ing a pro­fes­sion­al skin check, spe­cialised tools and imag­ing cam­eras are used to look deep­er into the skin to assess the types of moles you have and deter­mine whether they’re like­ly benign or worth inves­ti­gat­ing further.

types of moles camera

Remem­ber, ear­ly detec­tion is the best pro­tec­tion against aggres­sive skin can­cers like melanoma, which can some­times look like harm­less moles. Know­ing your body and what’s nor­mal is key to pre­vent­ing skin can­cer or detect­ing it ear­ly enough to get treat­ed. Be sure to check your own skin month­ly — the Scan Your Skin web­site has some help­ful tips on how to do this using the SCAN method:

· Sore: Any spots that are sore, scaly, itchy or bleed­ing, and don’t heal with­in 6 weeks

· Chang­ing: Any changes in size, shape, colour or texture

· Abnor­mal: Any spots that look or feel dif­fer­ent when com­pared to your oth­er moles

· New: Any spots that have appeared recent­ly, espe­cial­ly if you’re aged over 40

It’s also handy to look for the ABCDE warn­ing signs:

· A: Asymmetry

· B: Border

· C: Colour

· D: Diameter

· E: Elevation

You can also take our quick quiz to assess your per­son­al risk of devel­op­ing melanoma or anoth­er type of skin can­cer. It’s free and it only takes a few min­utes to complete.

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What are the dif­fer­ent types of moles?

A mole, known med­ical­ly as melanocyt­ic nae­vi, is a raised spot on your skin made up of skin cells grouped togeth­er instead of indi­vid­u­al­ly. These cells, called melanocytes, pro­duce melanin, which is the colour (pig­ment) in your skin.

There are many dif­fer­ent types of moles on skin, and they come in var­i­ous sizes, shapes, colours and forms. But know­ing which moles are nor­mal (or non-can­cer­ous) and which moles are sus­pi­cious can be tricky.

Below we’ve list­ed some of the most com­mon types of moles with pic­tures to help you under­stand what to look out for.

Com­mon moles

Com­mon moles are exact­ly that — com­mon. In fact, most adults have between 10 to 40 com­mon moles on their skin.

Com­mon moles typ­i­cal­ly have:

· Even pigmentation

· A dome-like and smooth surface

· Dis­tinct edges

Com­mon moles can appear lighter or dark­er on dif­fer­ent types of skin. For exam­ple, If you have fair­er skin, your moles may look lighter in colour than the moles of some­one who has dark­er skin and dark hair. These types of moles are typ­i­cal­ly found on skin that’s exposed to the sun reg­u­lar­ly. Although rare, com­mon moles can be at risk of devel­op­ing into skin cancer.

Source: Can​cer​.gov

Com­mon moles

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Atyp­i­cal mole

An atyp­i­cal mole is a type of skin mole that shows abnor­mal symp­toms. These types of moles are also referred to as dys­plas­tic nevi.

Atyp­i­cal moles usu­al­ly have these characteristics:

· Blur­ry or fuzzy borders

· Larg­er than oth­er moles

· Varies in colour

· Both raised and flat areas on the surface

Atyp­i­cal moles that are genet­ic, uneven or larg­er than a quar­ter of an inch can be at risk of melanoma.

Source: Skin​Cancer​.org

Com­mon moles

Acquired mole

Most moles are acquired, which means that they are not present at birth and devel­op as you get old­er. These types of moles can appear in both child­hood and adulthood.

Acquired moles typ­i­cal­ly have:

· Even pigmentation

· Sym­met­ri­cal border

· Small­er size than a pen­cil eraser

Acquired moles are typ­i­cal­ly benign and aren’t at risk of devel­op­ing melanoma. How­ev­er, with age, some may be at risk of turn­ing can­cer­ous. These types of skin moles are usu­al­ly caused by sun exposure.

Source: Wed​erm​.com

Types of moles — acquired mole

Con­gen­i­tal mole

Con­gen­i­tal moles are either present at birth or devel­op a few months after birth. Often, these types of moles are con­fused for birthmarks.

Con­gen­i­tal moles can be:

· Var­ied in size

· Round or oval in shape

· Raised

· Light tan, brown or black in colour

· Cov­ered with a hair or hairs

These types of moles are fair­ly com­mon and are gen­er­al­ly not sus­pi­cious. But it’s still impor­tant to mon­i­tor con­gen­i­tal moles over time and keep an eye out for any changes as they may be at risk of devel­op­ing into melanoma lat­er in life.

Source: Amer­i­can Osteo­path­ic Col­lege of Dermatology

Types of moles — con­gen­i­tal mole

Junc­tion­al melanocyt­ic nevus and com­pound nevus

When you’re check­ing your own skin, it’s almost impos­si­ble to tell the dif­fer­ence between a junc­tion­al melanocyt­ic nevus and a com­pound nevus. This is why it’s so impor­tant to have your skin checked by a pro­fes­sion­al who can use spe­cialised tools and cam­eras to prop­er­ly iden­ti­fy the dif­fer­ent types of moles on your skin.

A junc­tion­al melanocyt­ic nevus is a type of benign acquired mole that usu­al­ly appears in child­hood. Most junc­tion­al nae­vi will lose pig­men­ta­tion over time as the per­son moves through adulthood.

Junc­tion­al melanocyt­ic nevus typ­i­cal­ly appears:

· Light to dark brown in colour

· Slight­ly elevated

· Cir­cu­lar in shape

· Reg­u­lar borders

· 1 – 10mm in diameter

A com­pound nevus usu­al­ly starts as a flat lesion and becomes raised over time. These types of moles are more com­mon among peo­ple with lighter skin, but can also appear on those with dark­er skin tones.

Com­pound nevus can be recog­nised by:

· Round or oval shape

· Light tan to dark brown in colour

· A cen­tral raised or domed area sur­round­ed by a flat area

· Raised area may have dark­er pig­men­ta­tion than flat area

· Pig­men­ta­tion may be uneven by symmetrical

These types of moles are usu­al­ly con­sid­ered benign and not at risk of devel­op­ing into skin can­cer. But like all skin spots, it’s wise to have these moles checked for any changes or abnormalities.

Source: Ozark​Derm​.com, Web­MD

Types of moles — junc­tion­al melanocyt­ic nevus and com­pound nevus

Intra­der­mal nevus

Intra­der­mal nevus are skin-coloured moles that usu­al­ly have the same lev­el of pig­men­ta­tion as the sur­round­ing skin. Due to their fleshy colour, intra­der­mal nae­vi can often be mis­tak­en for warts.

Intra­der­mal nevus has these characteristics:

· Skin-coloured or sim­i­lar shade to the colour of the sur­round­ing skin

· Small in size, approx. 5mm to 1cm

· Raised, round­ed or dome-shaped

· May have or grow hairs

Intra­der­mal nae­vi can appear spon­ta­neous­ly or devel­op on top of exist­ing moles. They usu­al­ly appear from late child­hood onwards and can devel­op any­time dur­ing adult­hood. These types of moles are com­mon and usu­al­ly benign. How­ev­er, they can resem­ble ear­ly basal cell car­ci­no­ma so it’s impor­tant to have these moles checked by a professional.

Source: Patient​.info

Types of moles —Intra­der­mal nevus

Halo nevus

A halo nevus is eas­i­ly recog­nised by the white ring or ​“halo” sur­round­ing the mole. These moles can be caused by sun expo­sure or when your body’s immune sys­tem tries to ​“attack” the mole. This immune response affects the pig­ment in the nor­mal skin around the mole, cre­at­ing a dis­tinct white outline.

Halo nevus are iden­ti­fied by these characteristics:

· Reg­u­lar dark brown, tan or pink mole

· Sur­round­ed by a white patch of skin

Halo nevus are com­mon in chil­dren and young adults, but can appear lat­er in life too. These moles are usu­al­ly benign and not at risk of devel­op­ing into skin can­cer. How­ev­er, in rare cas­es, a halo nevus can be a sign of melanoma else­where on the body. In these cas­es, the halo nevus is often an irreg­u­lar shape or colour.

Source: Health­Line

Types of moles — halo nevus

What caus­es moles?

Almost every­body has at least one mole. Most peo­ple begin grow­ing moles dur­ing child­hood and some may even have moles present at birth. But oth­er peo­ple may not start devel­op­ing moles until lat­er in adulthood.

While all peo­ple will dif­fer on the num­ber of moles they have, peo­ple with fair skin typ­i­cal­ly have more moles since their skin has less melanin. Aus­tralian chil­dren, by 15 years old, have around 50 moles on aver­age, accord­ing to The Aus­tralasian Col­lege of Dermatology.

There are var­i­ous rea­sons why dif­fer­ent types of moles appear on the skin. It can be due to genet­ics, too much sun expo­sure or fluc­tu­a­tions in your hor­mone lev­els. Let’s explore each of these fac­tors below.

Genet­ics

Your genes play a role in your mole growth. Take a look around at your fam­i­ly: if your par­ents and oth­er rel­a­tives have moles on their skin, you’ll like­ly have moles too. If you notice any new moles appear­ing on your body as an adult, it’s more like­ly due to your genet­ics. How­ev­er, if many of your moles are caused by genet­ics, it can put you at a high­er risk of devel­op­ing melanoma. So, be sure to book your­self in for a pro­fes­sion­al skin check — and urge your fam­i­ly mem­bers to do so too!

Sun expo­sure

Expo­sure to the sun is the main rea­son why many moles grow. When you get too much sun expo­sure, par­tic­u­lar­ly dur­ing your infan­cy or teen years, it increas­es the like­li­hood that your moles will grow in size or that you will devel­op new moles. The best way to pre­vent moles from sun expo­sure is to be sun smart. When­ev­er you’re out­doors, make sure you pro­tect your skin with sun­screen (SPF of 30 or high­er) and sun pro­tec­tive cloth­ing, includ­ing UPF sun hats and sunglasses.

Hor­mones

Dur­ing the teen years, preg­nan­cy and menopause, hor­mon­al changes in the body can cause new moles to grow and exist­ing moles to devel­op or become dark­er. New areas of pig­men­ta­tion may also appear. While hor­mon­al mole changes are usu­al­ly harm­less, it’s still very impor­tant to flag them with your doc­tor or book in for a skin check.

What should you do about dif­fer­ent types of moles?

For the major­i­ty of peo­ple who have them, moles are sim­ply harm­less brown spots on their body and don’t cause any alarm. But moles can change and with any change comes a small risk that they will devel­op into melanoma.

While you may be able to com­pare your moles with some of the types of moles list­ed above, this arti­cle is not a diag­nos­tic tool and does not replace the advice of a med­ical pro­fes­sion­al. Ulti­mate­ly, the only way to deter­mine whether your moles are harm­less or need fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion is to book in for a pro­fes­sion­al skin check.

MoleMap Team

At MoleMap we check, detect and treat skin cancer. Find out how you can protect your skin at your nearest MoleMap skin cancer clinic.

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