A small number of conditions can cause a whitish appearance on moles. This includes melanoma, a type of skin cancer, which can sometimes create white patches on a person’s mole.

Another possible cause is halo moles, manifesting as white discoloration around a mole. Halo moles are usually benign.

This article discusses conditions that can cause whitish moles. It also provides pictures of skin cancer and discusses when someone should contact a doctor about their moles.

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer. According to a 2023 review, it is the fifth most common cancer in men and the seventh most common in women.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that melanoma skin cancer does not always affect moles.

When it does, it can create discolored moles. These may include white patches, leading to a whitish mole on the skin.

Moles with skin cancer may have patches of red, pink, or blue discoloration. They could also have different shades of brown or black. Other cancerous signs may include:

  • a mole that is asymmetrical in shape or size
  • a mole with ragged, irregular, or blurred edges
  • a mole over 6 millimeters in diameter
  • a mole changing in color, size, or shape

There is great variation in the color of people’s skin, including the color of moles. A white mole may not be cause for concern, but if a mole changes color, a person should seek a doctor’s opinion.

A 2021 study describes a halo mole as any mole with a ring of discolored skin surrounding it. This depigmentation can be white, although the mole itself is not.

Halo moles are usually benign. They affect roughly 1% of the general population and can persist for over 10 years.

They are more common in children and adolescents than in adults. Halo moles are in the same family of conditions as vitiligo.

People may mistake other skin lesions or conditions for white moles. Things that people may mistake for white moles include:

  • Milia: These are noncancerous, small white bumps on the skin. Milia are harmless and may appear on the face.
  • Whiteheads: These are tiny bumps that appear white or skin-colored. They are harmless and may disappear on their own.
  • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC): This is a type of nonmelanoma skin cancer that can appear as a pearly white or clear bump. It may have a translucent or waxy appearance.

Learn more about white spots on the skin and their possible causes.

Melanoma is a serious medical condition that can be life threatening without prompt treatment. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends that an individual speak with a doctor if they notice any of the following:

  • a mole that changes color
  • a mole that becomes bigger or smaller unevenly
  • a mole that changes in texture, shape, or height
  • the skin on a mole’s surface becomes dry or scaly
  • a mole that becomes hard or lumpy
  • an itchy mole
  • a mole that bleeds or oozes

Although most halo moles are benign, some can become cancerous. An individual who develops a halo mole may wish to contact a doctor.

This section answers some common questions about white moles on the skin.

Are skin cancer moles white?

Skin cancer moles can have patches of white, although they may instead have pink, red, or blue patches. Some skin cancer moles have an uneven brown or black coloration.

Are white moles concerning?

White moles are not always a cause for concern. However, if a mole changes color, it may indicate skin cancer, such as melanoma.

If a person notices any changes in moles, they should contact a doctor.

Can skin cancer be a white spot?

Skin cancer does not typically present as a white spot, although white discoloration can result from skin cancer.

Sometimes, BCC can cause a pearly white or clear bump. Melanoma can also cause patches of white on moles.

Some medical conditions can give moles a whitish discoloration.

This includes melanoma. Depending on a person’s skin color, this form of skin cancer begins in skin cells that can make the skin look brown or tan.

It may also lead to white spots on someone’s mole. In addition, melanoma skin cancer can also create blue, purple, or pink discoloration.

Halo moles are moles with a ring of depigmentation around them. The mole itself is not white, although this ring can be. Most halo moles are benign, but some can be cancerous.