Melanoma vs mole: What’s the difference?

Moles are a common feature found on many people’s skin. They come in all shapes and sizes, and most are completely harmless. However, certain types and changes in moles can signify something potentially dangerous such as melanoma. Recognizing the difference between safe and suspicious moles is essential for keeping you and your skin healthy. 

What is melanoma? 

Melanoma is a malignant form of skin cancer that occurs in the melanin-forming cells in our body. These cells, called melanocytes, control skin pigment. Melanoma typically occurs on our skin exposed to sunlight, but it can also occur in the mouth, intestines, eye, soles of our feet, palms of our hands, and fingernail beds. In women, melanoma occurs most frequently on the legs. In men, it occurs more commonly on the back. 

Causes of melanoma

The connection between moles and melanoma is that moles can increase your chances of developing this form of cancer. Around 20 to 30 per cent of melanoma develops from already existing moles. However, other factors affect your likelihood of developing it. 

Melanoma is most linked to exposure to UV light from the sun. This includes both UVA and UVB from the sun and artificial sources such as tanning beds.

The likelihood of developing melanoma from this exposure depends on the intensity and duration of sun exposure, the age when you are exposed, and skin pigmentation. For example, people that use a tanning bed before the age of 30 are 75 per cent more likely to develop melanoma. In addition, frequent sunburns, outdoor occupations, living in areas with high sun exposure (e.g., closer to the equator) all increase your chances. 

Genetics is another thing that plays and role in causing melanoma. As mentioned above, moles have a chance of developing into skin cancer. If moles are a common genetic trait in your lineage, you are at a higher risk, especially if you have more than 50 moles on your body.

Another genetic factor that affects your risk is skin colour. Fair-skinned people are at a higher risk. This is especially true in areas with lots of sun that are settled by people of European descent (e.g., Australia). 

Finally, some genetic conditions and mutations increase risk. For example, dysplastic nevus syndrome, a condition that causes irregularly shaped moles, increases your risk. Additionally, people with the MC1R gene, which causes red hair, are two to four times more likely to develop melanoma.

Types of melanoma 

There are many types of melanoma, but the four most common ones are: 

  • Superficial spreading melanoma 
  • Nodular melanoma 
  • Lentigo maligna melanoma
  • Acral lentiginous melanoma

Superficial spreading melanoma 

This is the most common form of melanoma. It accounts for approximately 70 per cent of melanoma skin cancers. This type of melanoma grows outwards and typically spreads across the skin, but it can also grow under the skin. It is often flat and thin, with an uneven border. It can also be varied in colour, including red, blue, brown, black, grey, and white. It can form on its own or start from a mole. It is usually found in the central body or on the arms and legs. 

Nodular melanoma 

Nodular melanoma is the second most common type of melanoma. It accounts for about 15 to 20 percent of all cases. This appears as a raised growth that sticks out of the skin. It may be shaped like a mushroom with a stem. It grows down into the skin and grows and spreads more quickly than other forms of melanoma. It is often black but can also be red, pink, or the same colour as the skin. It is often found on the face, chest, and back; but can also be on parts of the body not exposed to the sun.  

Lentigo maligna melanoma 

Lentigo maligna melanoma form of melanoma accounts for approximately 10 to 15 per cent of all cases and is typically found in older people. This type of melanoma is a tan or brown colour that tends to get darker as it grows. It is a large, flat patch with uneven borders. It grows outwards across the skin’s surface for many years before it goes down into the skin. It often occurs on the face, ears, and arms. 

Acral lentiginous melanoma

This form of melanoma accounts for less than five per cent of all cases and occurs most commonly in people with darker skin tones. It appears as a small, flat spot discoloured from the rest of the skin is often dark brown or black. This type of cancer takes a long time to grow into the skin. As a result, it is one of the most difficult diagnoses because it occurs in hard-to-see areas such as soles of feet, palms of hands, and under nails. 

Other rare types of melanoma include: 

  • Mucosal lentiginous melanoma – occurs on moist lining or organs and other parts of the body such as the throat.
  • Intraocular melanoma – occurs in the eye.
  • Desmoplastic melanoma – develops on the inner layer of the skin or layer of connective tissues that surround mucosa. This often occurs in areas such as the head, neck, upper back. 

Signs and symptoms of melanoma

Melanoma can appear anywhere on the body, even in areas that do not receive much sunlight. Some types may also be hard to catch. However, one of the first signs of melanoma can be changes in a current mole or the development of new, unusual growth, patch, or lump on the skin. 

One of the best ways to diagnose changes in a mole is to understand the differences between a normal and suspicious mole. Normal moles can vary greatly in size, shape, and colour. However, they are typically uniform in colour, oval or round in shape, smaller in size, and have a distinct border separating them from the rest of your skin. Most moles appear in childhood but can continue to appear until about the age of 40. Additionally, moles may change or disappear over time. 

One of the best ways to diagnose an unusual mole is through the acronym ABCDE. Here is what each letter means. 

  • Asymmetry.
  • Borders. Irregular borders with edges and corners, 
  • Colour. Not being uniform in color or being different from most of your other moles.
  • Diameter. If the moles are bigger than 6mm. 
  • Evolving. Moles can change over time, but if it is doing so irregularly, this may also be a sign. 

Melanoma may have all or a couple of these characteristics. 

Nodular melanoma can also be diagnosed using the acronym: EFG

  • Elevated above the skin surface. 
  • Firm to the touch. 
  • Growing. 

Signs and symptoms for hidden melanomas can be more challenging to notice. Therefore, it is a good idea to contact your doctor if you notice changes or irregularities under your nails, on the palms/soles of your hands and feet, in your mouth, digestive tract, eyes, and more. 

Why is this important? 

It is important to understand moles and melanoma to properly assess your risk of developing this form of skin cancer. Ways to minimize your risk include:

  • Reducing your exposure to sunlight.
  • Wearing UV protection (e.g., sunscreen, sunglasses, thick clothes, etc.)
  • Getting physicals.
  • Check your moles regularly.

It is a good idea to check your moles every couple of months, and those with increased risk should ideally have their moles examined once a year.

Home remedies to remove flat moles

How to remove flat moles using 5 different methods

We are going to explain how to remove flat moles, because let’s face it, most people don’t want them on their face or body.  The appearance of a mole anywhere on your body that is not covered by clothing can be distressing. Some people become upset and hyperfixated on the mole. This is especially true if it appears on your face. Flat moles are harmless for the most part, however they should be monitored for any changes. You doctor can check them out for you.

Some people hate flat moles however. Others may consider a them as simply a beauty-spot. If you don’t like them and want to get rid of them then there are some easy home remedies to get rid of any flat mole that might develop on your skin. We list them with how-to directions below:

The Castor Oil And Baking Soda Mole Removal Method:

This method uses castor oil and baking soda.

Castor oil can be used to diminish and even erase scars and moles. Baking soda has drying properties that help make the removal process easier and faster.

  • Simply mix castor oil with a pinch of baking soda to create a paste.
  • Apply liberally it to the flat mole.
  • Cover the mole with a band-aid.
  • Leave the paste on the mole overnight (or for several hours during the day).
  • It will dry naturally. Wash it off with water.
  • Repeat this process for 7 to 10 days or until you see the mole fading.

The Apple Cider Vinegar Mole Removal Method

Apple cider vinegar is a very gentle acidic substance  that can help get rid of moles. The acid in the vinegar slowly burns off the flat mole-cells. As this happens, the mole will fade.

  • Wash the mole with warm water and let it dry completely.
  • Use a cotton ball or cotton ear bud to apply the vinegar onto the mole.
  • Leave this on until it dries off and then wash it with water.
  • Do this a several times per day for about 7 days or so.
  • Initially the mole will get darker and drier. Then it will turn into a scab.
  • Be sure not to touch or peel off the scab. Let it fall off naturally. This will avoid producing a mark or scar.

Caution: Remember not to confuse apple cider vinegar with manufactured vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is natural. It is made from fermented apple juice.  Be sure to only use apple cider vinegar when trying this mole erasing method.

Garlic Paste Mole Removal Method:

The natural enzymes found in garlic cloves can break down the cluster of cells that have formed to create the mole. They break down the cell clusters and help lighten the pigment in the area making the mole fade.

  • Crush some fresh garlic into a paste using a mortar-pestle (food processor or hand mixer can also be used).
  • Apply paste to the mole.
  • Cover with band-aid or surgical tape or gauze
  • Leave it on for a few hours
  • Remove cover and wash.

Do this every day or about a week. The mole will fall off on its own. This anti-mole method takes about a week to work. In some cases even over 5 days.

The Honey And Flaxseed Oil Mole Removal Method:

As delicious as honey is, the sticky liquid can also be used to make a mole fade. Flaxseed oil can be used to treat a number of skin problems related to scarring and pigmentation. Used together it is an ideal mole-eradicating home remedy

  • Mix a drop of flaxseed oil  with a drop honey.
  • Apply mixture to the flat mole.
  • Leave it on for an hour.
  • Then wash it off.
  • Do this daily.
  • Cover with band-aid if desired.
  • You will see result in a week.

TIP: Don’t have any flaxseed oil?  Just apply honey by itself.

The Onion Juice Anti-Mole Method:

Onion juice is acidic. So it will not only help you erase moles, but it can help even out your skin tone as well.
Here is how:

  • Grind an onion into a paste
  • Squeeze out all its juice using a cheesecloth or other extraction method (try a juicer).
  • Apply the onion juice directly on the mole.
  • Leave the remedy on for about 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Then wash it off.

This mole-busting method takes more time than the other methods on this page to show results, but is extremely safe.

Bonus skin care tip during mole removal:

Apply petroleum jelly, like Vaseline, on the areas of skin around the mole that you want to remove. This process will help protect your skin from any damage, while the removal materials do their job on the unwanted mol

Mole prevention tips

If you are prone to developing moles, then there are a few practices you can put into your life to prevent moles from developing in the first place. Here are some common sense mole prevention tips to follow. These will augment your efforts to develop beautiful skin after removing your moles.

Limit your exposure to the sun

Exposure to the sun stimulates production of melanin in the skin. This is what causes skin to darken and turn into a tan. But this process can also leading to the development of moles. Avoid sunbeds, and sun tanning. And limit exposing your skin to direct sunlight. When when you do spend time in the sun be sure to wear a high SPF sunscreen. The sun is most intense between 10AM and 4PM. This is when the ultraviolet rays are at their strongest. So be sure to

1) Wear a hat
2) Wear light and comfortable skin covering clothes
3) Use sunscreen on exposed skin.

Apply sunscreen or sunblock

You won’t always be able to or even want to stay out of the sunshine. Some sun exposure is good for you. Though it will promote the development of moles. When your skin is exposed to the sun, be sure to apply a high SPF sunscreen (20 or more) or any sun blocking cream to exposed before stepping outdoors. SPF content in the topical cream or lotion should be 20 or better. Apply sunscreen or block at least half an hour before exposing your skin to the sun. Also be sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours and after bathing or becoming wet in any way. Sunscreen protection doesn’t last longer than 2.5 to 3 hours so it is very important to re-apply product regularly, to protect yourself from burns and to minimize skin condition that promote mole growth.

Inspect your moles regularly

Part of your mole prevention routine should be to check your skin and any new or changing moles often. Once a week or so especially if you are getting any sun exposure.  Watch for changes in color, shape and size. If you detect a change, then see your doctor or dermatologist. Moles that change can be cancerous and will require treatment. Don’t delay a doctor’s appointment if you see changes. Get them looked at as soon as possible.

Clean your skin and exfoliate

Clean your skin regularity and scrub dead skin away. This exfoliation process will help in the prevention of and stop the development of moles. Dead skin cells can block pores and create the conditions for moles to form. Be sure to exfoliate your face and body often several time per month or even once per week.

More mole prevention experts

If you would like to find a dermatologist, or get help with your moles, or skin, see the recommended web sites below.

What do body moles mean?

Closeup of Jennifer Lawrence's red chest moles
Closeup of Jennifer Lawrence’s red chest moles

What the Chinese Art of Face Reading says about body moles

The ancient Chinese Art of Face Reading provides insight into mole on your face as well as corresponding moles on your body.

Some people content that moles on the body are marks carried over from past lives. They are badges of experience and can be an indicate of some good or bad deed from a previous incarnation.

Some sages say that moles show good fortune or possibly misfortune depending on their color and position. Perhaps they are flesh-borne milestones and markers of past deeds.

Each one has a meaning and reading them can offer insight into a person, their personality and their life.

Here is a guide to what your body moles mean based on various interpretations from different cultures.

Back and bum Moles

What a back mole means:

A person with a mole on their back has an outgoing personality. The also have  strong communication skills and are easy to talk to and are great listeners.

What a mole on your bum means:

Someone with a mole on their butt is a person who is:

  • Enthusiastic
  • Vital and full of life
  • Engaging. They like to meet people and are good with strangers
  • Lucky. They have luck with money and wealth

It can be an excellent indication that you are smart, have wisdom and creativity. You will be or are highly respected.

What a mole on your tailbone indicates:

This mole on a male shows your potential to be successful and wealthy. Entrepreneurs with this mole will have good fortune. On a woman a tailbone mole shows you pays attention to your work. You are reliable and trustworthy.

Leg Moles

What a mole on the lower leg means:

These people are hard workers. They are responsible. And the work hard. They are good business people and they work dilently for their families.

What a mole on the back of the knee shows:

A mole on the back of a woman’s knee predicts she will have excellent relationships with most people and will be likeable.  On a man,  a mole in this location is not good. You will suffer a life of scarcity. (You might want to remove this mole.)

Neck Moles

What moles on the neck around Adam’s apple mean:

A mole on the neck near the Adam’s apple suggest that the person may not get get along with their family.

What moles on the base of the front of the neck:

This mole location may indicate a shorter lifespan. You may suffer from high stress.

Stomach and Chest Moles

What a mole on your chest means:

A mole, especially if it is reddish in color, on the chest means you are:

  • Passionate:
  • Generous
  • Loving
  • And you have good relationships with children.

What a mole in the center of your chest on your breast bone means:

You have a kind heart. You exude generosity. When engaging in business people can trust you to be honest and honorable.

What a mole on the navel means:

A mole, especially a red mole, on the navel means the person is wise. The have good fortune. And the love good food. Some would call them gourmets.

What a mole on the upper ribcage below the breasts or pectorals means:

A mole mid torso brings good fortune for both genders. Life will be smooth and expect to get lucky with unexpected windfalls. If you have two moles here, expect doubly good fortune.

Pubic Moles

What a mole on your lower abdomen means:

On a man, a mole low on your abdomen near your genitals means you will have many children. On a woman this mean you are very passionate and have a high sex drive.

Arm Moles

What a mole on a shoulder means

A mole on the shold means that this person needs to work hard for their family. They may have more arguments and be combative at times.

What a mole on in an armpit means:

If a mole is near an armpit, it is a sign of good fortune and luck for men. If the mole is tucked in the armpit, it can you will achieve a high rank in your life.

What a mole on the inside of your arm (opposite to your elbow) means:

This location for a mole suggests that it is difficult for you to win recognition for hard work. Achieving the result you desire could be tough and difficult.

Hand Moles

What a mole on the inside of your wrist means:

You are good at spending your money. It will be difficult for you to hold on to any wealth. Practise giving to charity and this will ensure you have plenty of money to spend and to give away.

What a mole on the left hand means

This mole means money flows away from you quicker than you can earn it.

What a mole on the right hand means:

Mole located on the right hand helps attract a flow of money to you.

What a mole on the bicep means:

On a man,  mole on this arm muscle conveys that you need to work hard for anything you earn. You may also do physical types of work. On a woman, a mole on this location means children are in safe hands with her as she loves kids, and they will love her

What moles on your face mean:

Have a mole on or face? Learn what facial moles mean about you in this article: The Meaning of Moles on Your Face

More body mole interpretation websites:

Types of skin moles

There are several types of skin moles that can appear on human skin. They include:

Junctional moles

These moles are usually brown. They may be flat or slightly raised. The cells that make up the mole are usually located where the epidermis (top skin layer) and dermis (lower layer of skin)  meet They are often dark are thin and only slightly elevated above the surface of the skin.

They are found all over the body and are regularly shaped — round or oval. They are uniform in color ranging from and light to dark brown. They can become cancerous, though are normally not a health issue.

Compound moles

This type of mole is slightly raised. It ranges in color from tan to dark brown. There are pigment-producing cells — called melanocytes — in both the epidermis and dermis (upper and lower layers of the skin).

Dermal moles

These moles range from flesh-colored to brown. They are elevated and are most common on the upper body. They can contain hairs

Sebaceous moles

This type of mole is produced by overactive oil glands in the skin. They appear yellow and have a rough texture.

Blue moles

Blue moles are are slightly raised and blue-black in color. They are colored by pigment deep in the skin. They can be most commonly found on the head, neck and arms of women.

Learn more about types of moles

There is more about various types of moles here:


Types of skin moles

Mole prevention tips

If you are prone to developing moles, then there are a few practices you can put into your life to prevent moles from developing in the first place. Here are some common sense mole prevention tips to follow. These will augment your efforts to develop beautiful skin after removing your moles. Limit your exposure to …

What do body moles mean?

What the Chinese Art of Face Reading says about body moles The ancient Chinese Art of Face Reading provides insight into mole on your face as well as corresponding moles on your body. Some people content that moles on the body are marks carried over from past lives. They are badges of experience and can …

Types of skin moles

There are several types of skin moles that can appear on human skin. They include: Junctional moles These moles are usually brown. They may be flat or slightly raised. The cells that make up the mole are usually located where the epidermis (top skin layer) and dermis (lower layer of skin)  meet They are often dark …