Moles are common skin growths that occur when skin cells called melanocytes cluster together inside a covering of tissue. They frequently appear in childhood or adolescence, and are sometimes present at birth. Although typically harmless, in some cases, moles can develop into skin cancer or can harbor cancer cells.
In most cases, children develop moles at some point after birth, according to the American Academy of Dermatology 1. Typically, these common, benign moles arise in areas of your child’s skin that receive sun exposure. Initially, they appear as round, flat spots with a single, uniform color. As your child grows, common moles grow as well, keeping symmetrical borders and a generally round structure. In some cases, they may lighten prior to puberty, then darken again when puberty begins. Despite these changes, they typically have a single, even color at any given time. By adulthood, your child will likely have between 12 and 20 moles of this variety.
- In most cases, children develop moles at some point after birth, according to the American Academy of Dermatology 1.
Examples of Harmless Skin Moles
In some cases, your child may develop moles that do not resemble common moles, the American Academy of Dermatology notes 1. Although usually harmless, these atypical moles have some chance of turning into skin cancer, according to Children’s Hospital Boston 2. Signs that your child’s mole is atypical include the presence of ragged or irregular borders; a lack of symmetry between the mole's two halves; a diameter larger than a pencil eraser; and variations in color throughout the mole. If your child has a mole with these types of irregularities, you will need to watch it carefully and report any changes in its appearance to your child’s doctor.
Roughly 1 percent of children are born with a mole, the American Academy of Dermatology reports 1. In many cases, these congenital moles appear similar to common moles, but they may also look like bluish-gray bruises. If your child’s congenital mole measures less than eight inches in diameter, it typically indicates no increased risks for the development of skin cancer. However, if your child’s congenital mole measures more than eight inches, he may experience an increased skin cancer risk of between roughly 5 and 10 percent. In some cases, this risk increase may be even greater.
- Roughly 1 percent of children are born with a mole, the American Academy of Dermatology reports 1.
- However, if your child’s congenital mole measures more than eight inches, he may experience an increased skin cancer risk of between roughly 5 and 10 percent.
Spitz Nevus Moles
Facts About Red Moles
Your child may also develop a dome-shaped, raised mole called a Spitz nevus, which highly resembles active skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology explains. Moles in this category are frequently pink, but other potential shades include brown, red and black. In some cases, these types of moles may also bleed or produce an oozing fluid. Be aware that Spitz nevus moles look so much like cancer that even a specialist cannot differentiate the two during a visual examination.
- Your child may also develop a dome-shaped, raised mole called a Spitz nevus, which highly resembles active skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology explains.
- In some cases, these types of moles may also bleed or produce an oozing fluid.
Children’s Hospital Boston and the American Cancer Society list tips for examining your child’s moles that include familiarizing yourself with your child’s skin characteristics; systematically scanning your child’s body from front to back and right to left with his arms raised; and closely checking easily overlooked locations such as the spaces between his toes and his scalp, back and buttocks 2.
Examples of Harmless Skin Moles
Facts About Red Moles
Age Spots and Moles
Baby Skin Moles
Differences between Malignant Melanoma and a Normal Mole
Why Is a Mole Raising Up on Skin?
Early Signs of Skin Cancer and Penile Cancer
Breast Bud Development Signs
Red Bumps on Babies' Skin
What Kinds of Growths Form on Aging Skin?
- SkinCancerNet - American Academy of Dermatology: Moles in Children; What Parents Should Know
- Children's Hospital Boston: Skin Cancer
- American Cancer Society. How to Spot Skin Cancer. Updated 07/06/17. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/how-to-spot-skin-cancer.html
- Canadian Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of melanoma skin cancer. http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/skin-melanoma/signs-and-symptoms/?region=on
- American Cancer Society. Key statistics for melanoma skin cancer. Updated August 14, 2019.
- Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Congenital nevus (mole).
- U.S. National Library of Medicine Genetics Home Reference. Are moles determined by genetics? Updated December 2017.
- National Cancer Institute. Genetics of skin cancer (PDQ) - health professional version. Updated January 3, 2020.
- American Society of Clinical Oncology. Melanoma: symptoms and signs. Updated January 2019.
- Skin Cancer Foundation. Melanoma warning signs. Updated April 2019.
- National Cancer Institute. Melanoma risk assessment tool.
- American Cancer Society. How to Spot Skin Cancer. Updated 07/06/17.
- Canadian Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of melanoma skin cancer.
M. Gideon Hoyle is a writer living outside of Houston. Previously, he produced brochures and a wide variety of other materials for a nonprofit educational foundation. He now specializes in topics related to health, exercise and nutrition, publishing for various websites.