Moles can itch for many reasons, including exposure to certain skin care products and chemicals. Most moles are harmless, but in rare cases, moles can itch due to cancer.

Moles typically change very slowly. They may change color, become raised, or grow hairs. Some moles never change, and others may slowly disappear. Some changes are expected and harmless, but a doctor should evaluate all changes, especially if they are sudden.

This article discusses the causes of itchy moles and how to know if the cause may be serious.

Fast facts about moles

  • Moles are composed of cells called melanocytes, which also give skin its color.
  • They are common.
  • A dermatologist should check any new or changing moles in order to rule out skin cancer.

Skin moles are also called nevi. They develop when cells that contain pigment, called melanocytes, grow in clusters. A mole may be dark brown, or it may be a lighter or darker shade.

Moles can appear anywhere on the skin. Most develop between early childhood and early adulthood. Most people have between 10-40 moles by the time they are adults.

Any number factors other than cancer can cause a mole to itch. These include:

  • Exposure to certain skin products. One or more moles may itch in response to a new lotion or soap, for example.
  • Exposure to chemicals. The itchiness may stem from exposure to a laundry detergent or a chemical at work.
  • Eczema. If a mole is surrounded by eczema, the area may itch. In this case, the mole is called a Meyerson nevus.

Also, a mole may develop into skin cancer, such as melanoma or a type of carcinoma.

In rare cases, if a mole itches, this may be a sign of melanoma. Being aware of the signs and symptoms of melanoma is key.

Itchiness is just one of the skin changes that can indicate skin cancer. The development of new moles may be a sign of melanoma. Or, melanoma may appear as a black or blue area within existing moles. The area may be other colors, as well.

Other skin symptoms include:

  • sores that do not heal
  • swelling or color changes such as redness that spreads to nearby skin
  • itchiness, tenderness, or pain in the mole or surrounding skin

And as the American Academy of Dermatology notes, skin cancer can appear in particular ways in people with darker skin. A person should look for:

  • especially dark spots that grow, bleed, or change in other ways
  • areas that have changed texture, by becoming dry or rough, for example
  • a dark line beneath or around a fingernail or toenail

How likely is it that an itchy mole is melanoma?

Melanoma is one of the most common skin cancers, as the American Cancer Society (ACS) reports. The ACS adds that melanoma is 20 times more prevalent among people who are white than those who are African American. The lifetime risk of developing melanoma among white people is 2.6%.

And though it may be more common in people over 65, as the ACS notes, anyone can develop skin cancer. If sudden or concerning skin changes develop, contact a healthcare professional for an evaluation.

If skin cancer is not melanoma, it is a type of carcinoma. This can cause multiple unusual skin lesions that might be itchy and painful.

Some carcinoma lesions resemble moles, sores, or warts. In 2014, researchers found that up to 37% of skin cancer lesions caused itchiness, more commonly in skin exposed to the sun.

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma cause itchiness more often than melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of cancer in the world, affecting more than 2 million people in the United States alone each year.

It typically grows in areas with plenty of sun exposure, such as the face and neck. If doctors identify it early enough, treatment may cure the disease.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer.

It results from abnormal growth of the squamous cells, which cover most of the skin’s upper layers. These cells continually shed as new ones form.

The cancer can appear as scaly red patches, elevated patches, and open sores on the skin.

When a doctor identifies the cancer early, the treatment can be effective. Without treatment, the cancer can penetrate deeper layers of skin.

Squamous cell carcinoma can also spread to nearby lymph nodes, distant tissues, and organs. However, it rarely spreads.

Anyone who notices changes in the color, size, or shape of a mole should have it checked — particularly if the mole bleeds or itches or is tender or painful.

Most moles cause no symptoms and do not need treatment. But if a mole is itchy, painful, large, or likely to be cancerous, a doctor may recommend removing it.

There are two main ways to remove moles, both of which are typically safe:

  • Surgical excision: This involves numbing the affected area, removing the mole, and closing the skin with stitches.
  • Surgical shave: For moles that are small, a surgeon numbs the area and uses a small blade to remove the elevated part of the mole. This does not require stitches.

After either procedure, the surgeon sends the mole or the removed section to a lab, where a technician examines it under a microscope for abnormalities or cancerous cells.

No one should try to remove a mole at home. This could result in scarring or infection, among other complications. And if the mole is cancerous, attempting to remove it at home could cause cancerous cells to stay on the skin and spread.

Unless a professional assesses the mole, there is no way of knowing whether the cells are cancerous.

Below, find answers to common questions about itchy moles.

Can a mole itch and not be cancer?

Changes to moles, including itchiness, do not necessarily stem from skin cancer. But have a dermatologist assess any mole that itches, oozes, bleeds, or has changed.

What are some home remedies for an itchy mole?

Various home care techniques and medications can address skin itchiness, and the best choice depends on the underlying cause.

The best way to stop a mole from itching, and to make sure it not cancerous, is to see a doctor and have it removed.

When should I worry about a mole?

A mole could be cancerous if the color is not uniform or if the appearance has changed in another way. Some changes include uneven edges, an irregular shape, or a size larger than the end of a pencil eraser.

A person can use the ABCDE method to tell if their mole is atypical. Any change warrants a visit to a doctor.

When a doctor identifies it early, skin cancer is usually curable. It is crucial to receive a professional assessment of any changes to a mole, including itchiness and pain.