It is common for adults to have between 10 and 40 moles. People with lighter skin tend to have more moles than those with darker skin.
Moles can change as a person ages. Some will become darker or lighter, and many moles grow. They can appear anywhere on the skin, from the scalp to the soles of the feet and even under the fingernails.
Most moles are harmless, but people should check them for changes, such as bleeding, that can indicate melanoma.
In this article, learn why moles can bleed and when to seek medical treatment.
A doctor should inspect any mole that bleeds for no reason.
Raised moles can catch on things, such as jewelry, and start to bleed. They can also feel itchy, and a person may break the skin if they scratch too hard.
A bleeding mole may be painful, but a person can usually treat these minor wounds at home.
If a mole bleeds for no apparent reason, however, a person should see a doctor. Bleeding moles, or moles that look like open sores, can sometimes be signs of melanoma.
When to see a doctor
Melanomas are skin cancers that begin in the skin cells that produce pigment.
The cancerous cells may look like moles, or they may develop from moles. When spotted and treated early, melanomas are almost always curable.
People can use the "ABCDEs" to monitor new or existing moles. If any of the following signs are present, see a doctor for a professional evaluation:
- Asymmetry: The two halves of the mole or freckle do not match.
- Border: The mole or freckle has an irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border.
- Color: The mole contains varied shades of tan, brown, black, white, red, or blue.
- Diameter: Melanomas are usually larger than 6 millimeters in diameter when a doctor diagnoses them. They can be smaller, however.
- Evolving: If one mole looks different from the others, or has noticeably changed in size, shape, or color, it may indicate a melanoma.
If a mole bleeds or oozes, this can also point to melanoma. Other symptoms include:
- sores that do not heal
- redness or swelling that spreads outside of a mole's border
- itchiness, tenderness, or pain in a mole
- changes in a mole's texture
- blurry vision, partial loss of sight, or dark spots in the eye's iris
Standard first aid for a bleeding mole involves covering the wound with a sterile dressing and applying pressure to stop the bleeding.
Most moles are harmless and do not require treatment. A doctor may remove a suspicious mole to test it for cancerous cells.
Some people also wish to remove moles that are bothersome or uncomfortable.
A dermatologist can remove a mole using surgical excision or a surgical shave.
During surgical excision, the doctor numbs the area, cuts away the mole, and closes the wound with stitches.
A surgical shave can remove small moles. After numbing the area, the doctor uses a small blade to remove the part of the mole that is raised above the rest of the skin.
Some people try to remove moles at home, but the American Association of Dermatologists warns against this for three reasons:
- If the mole does contain skin cancer, some of the cancer cells can stay in the skin and even spread.
- Shaving off or cutting out a mole can disfigure the skin and cause scarring.
- Removing a mole without sterile equipment and in nonsurgical conditions can lead to infection.
Taking steps to protect the skin from direct sunlight can help reduce the risk of skin cancer.
Exposure to the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays causes most skin cancers. The following are general tips to prevent skin cancer:
- Stay in the shade during the brightest hours of the day.
- Avoid tanning in the sun, and never use UV tanning beds.
- Cover up in the sun with a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
- Use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher during long periods of sun exposure.
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours and immediately after swimming or sweating excessively.
- Keep newborns out of the sun.
Most bleeding moles result from superficial cuts or snags. A person can treat them at home by applying pressure and a bandage.
If a mole bleeds for no apparent reason, or it starts to look like an open sore, contact a doctor for an evaluation.
The 5-year survival rate for very early-stage melanoma that has not spread is 99 percent. This means that nearly all the people with this type of skin cancer are still alive 5 years after diagnosis.
It is essential to monitor moles for signs of cancer and speak to a doctor about any concerns.