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Moles are small, coloured spots on the skin. Most people have them and they're usually nothing to worry about unless they change size, shape or colour.

Most moles are harmless

Most harmless moles are round or oval-shaped, with a smooth edge

Benign mole
They can be flat or raised and may feel smooth or rough

Melanocytic naevus
Sometimes they have hair growing from them

It's normal for:

  • babies to be born with moles
  • new moles to appear – especially in children and teenagers
  • moles to fade or disappear as you get older
  • moles to get slightly darker during pregnancy

See a GP if you notice a change in a mole

It's important to get a new or existing mole checked out if it:

  • changes shape or looks uneven
  • changes colour, gets darker or has more than 2 colours
  • starts itching, crusting, flaking or bleeding
  • gets larger or more raised from the skin

These changes can happen over weeks or months. They're sometimes a sign of melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

If your GP thinks it's melanoma

You'll be referred to a specialist in hospital. You will be seen on an urgent basis.

The main treatment for melanoma is surgery to remove the mole.

Cosmetic mole treatment

Most moles are harmless. Harmless moles are not usually treated by the HSE.

You can pay a private clinic to remove a mole, but it may be expensive. Your GP can give you advice about where to get treatment.

How to prevent cancerous moles

UV light from the sun can increase the chance of a mole becoming cancerous. If you have lots of moles, you need to be extra careful in the sun.

It's important to check your moles regularly for any changes.

There are some things you can do to protect your moles from sun damage, especially during hot weather.


  • stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm, when sunlight is strongest
  • cover skin with clothes – wear a hat and sunglasses if you have moles on your face
  • regularly apply a high-factor sunscreen (minimum SPF15) – apply it again after swimming


  • use sunlamps or sunbeds – they use UV light

The Irish Cancer Society has more information about skin cancer.

Related topic

Skin cancer

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

page last reviewed: 29/01/2019
next review due: 29/01/2022