What’s the Best Way to Remove a Non-Cancerous Mole?

Plastic surgeons can remove moles and minimize scarring

A noncancerous mole is being inspected by a doctor.

Plastic surgeons can remove moles and minimize scarring

Moles, particularly non-cancerous ones, can be easily removed with a minor surgical procedure. This type of mole removal can be done in an outpatient setting.

Moles can be surgically removed, burned away or shaved off. There is a minor risk of infection, but side effects are generally minor.

“Perhaps the biggest downside to mole removal is the remaining scar,” says Salvatore Pacella, MD, a cosmetic, plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Scripps Clinic. “When removing the mole surgically, we use extremely fine suturing techniques to prevent excess scarring and make the incision line heal as inconspicuously as possible.

“Burning or shaving off the mole will effectively eliminate it, but the scarring may be quite noticeable,” Dr. Pacella says. “A board-certified plastic surgeon would approach mole removal like any other cosmetic procedure — with fine technique to minimize scarring.”

What happens after mole removal

Once the mole is removed, it should be examined for microscopic signs of skin cancer. It is not uncommon for a skin cancer to arise from a mole and only found after the mole is thoroughly examined by a pathologist.

It is important to keep in mind that removal of non-cancerous moles may not be covered by insurance. Your surgeon can assist you in applying for approval.

Common moles vs atypical moles

Moles can appear anywhere on the skin. Most adults have 10 to 40 common moles. They form when pigment cells grow in a cluster instead of being spread out throughout the skin.

Common moles are usually small, round or oval-shaped skin growths with a well-defined border. They may be pink, tan, brown or black.

Atypical moles look different. They’re generally bigger and tend to have irregular borders and coloring. Most atypical moles are benign, though they are more likely than common moles to become cancerous, according to the National Cancer Institute. One in 10 Americans has an atypical mole.

Self-checking moles

While they generally do not pose a health threat, moles should be self-checked regularly. Schedule a skin exam if you find a new mole or a change in an existing one. A mole that starts to change or grow in size could be a sign of skin cancer.

Whether you choose to have a mole removed for health or cosmetic reasons, it’s important to know what you’re dealing with first. It may seem convenient to use over-the-counter products or home remedies to remove small moles. But it is wise to first check with your doctor to make sure the mole is not potentially cancerous.

How doctors remove moles

Removing benign moles can sometimes be done by your primary care doctor. Dermatologists and plastic surgeons handle more complicated cases.

The best method to remove a non-cancerous mole depends on the type, size and location of the mole. A physician will often use one of these mole removal methods:

Surgical excision

Surgical excision is effective in removing moles that have a deep base. A scalpel, laser or another instrument is used to remove the mole. Stitches are used to close the wound.

Surgical shaving

In surgical shaving, the mole is shaved off the surface of the skin. In some cases, cauterization is used to burn away layers of skin to reduce the chances of the mole growing back. This option may be available for moles that are non-cancerous and relatively small.

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