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Benign moles: how are they removed and what are the risks?

Posted on
September 23, 2021
Choice Aesthetics

Why do benign skin moles form?

The majority of moles that occur on the body are harmless. They are due to an overgrowth and accumulation of certain types of cells within the different layers of the skin.


What are the most common benign moles that occur?

Moles can occur almost anywhere on the body and are termed ‘benign naevi’. There are many different types of naevi and their appearance varies depending on the type of cell and the layer of the skin from which they originate:

-       Pigmented and flat mole: junctional naevi

-       Pigmented and raised mole: compound naevi

-       Non-pigmented and raised mole: intradermal naevi

-       Pigmented, raised, and rough surface mole: seborrhoeic keratosis

What problems can benign moles cause?

Most moles grow slowly over months or years without causing any problems. However, if it is in a visible area such as your face, you may feel that your mole is unsightly and feel self-conscious. Some raised moles can catch on clothing or jewellery or when brushing hair or shaving and either cause discomfort or bleed.


What is the difference between benign and cancerous moles?

Benign moles:

-       Grow slowly over a number of years and usually remain small

-       Have a regular outline or border and are symmetrical in shape

-       The pigmentation within the mole tends to be same throughout

-       Do not bleed easily- there is usually trauma e.g. brushing / shaving

Cancerous / malignant moles:

-       Grow rapidly over a number of weeks or months and become large (>6mm size usually)

-       Have an irregular outline or border and are asymmetrical in shape

-       The pigmentation within the mole can vary and is not uniform

-       Can bleed easily withoutany injury


Are benign moles removed on the NHS?

Only moles suspicious of cancer or have the potential to be malignant are removed on the NHS. The vast majority of benign moles are removed in the private sector.  


How can moles be removed?

There are different techniques available for mole removal including ‘shave’ and ‘complete excision’. Either way, it should be possible to remove the mole under local anaesthetic straight after your consultation.

Shave Excision

The mole is removed by either shaving it with asurgical blade so that the area is level with the adjacent skin. Stitches arenot needed and the raw area is then left to heal in 1 – 2 weeks.

Complete excision

The mole is removed with an elliptical incision that is orientated to lie in your natural skin lines and be less noticeable. The marked ellipse of skin includes removal of the mole as well as its deeper roots. Stitches are then used to close the wound. Complete excision leaves a straight-line scar which is usually slightly longer than the original diameter of the mole.


Which moles can be ‘shaved’ and which need ‘excision’?

If your mole is raised and does not have any concerning features, then a ‘shave’ technique can be considered. Any moles that are flat to the skin would need to be excised as only raised moles can be removed with a shave technique.

Shave removal is a much quicker and can be performed anywhere on the body. It is particularly suitable in areas such as the nose, lips, chin and forehead where there is not enough loose skin to allow wound closure, or where complete excision may cause facial distortion or leave a much more noticeable long, straight-line scar. Shave removal leaves a flat or slightly indented scar which is the same size as the base of your removed mole.

In a shave procedure the deeper roots of your mole may still remain, and there is a small risk of recurrence in the long-term. In contrast, an ‘excision’, although it does leave a more noticeable, longer, straight-line scar, removes your mole in its entirety and the long-term risk of recurrence is much lower.


What are the risks of mole removal?

There will be a permanent scar after removal of your mole and this is unavoidable. Other risks include wound infection, delayed wound healing or wound separation, poor scarring (with lumpy, stretched or pigmented scarring), contour deformity and rarely recurrence of the mole.


What is the recovery after mole removal?

Although there may be a small dressing following your minor surgery, you should be able to go home straight after the procedure and return to work the next day.

Skin stitches may be required after a mole removal and these are removed at 7 days on the face and 10 to 14 days on other areas of the body. After 2 weeks, the wound should be healed and the scar should be with massaged daily with a moisturiser.

 Although gentle exercise such as walking is fine straight after surgery, more rigorous exercise such as swimming and gym classes should be avoided for 2 to 3 weeks after surgery to avoid wound infection and wound separation. Make-up should not be applied to the wound on the face for at approximately 2 to 3 weeks or until the wound has fully healed to avoid wound infection.


What is the cost of mole removal?

A mole can be removed from around £500.00 but the cost varies depending on the size, location, whether it is a recurrence and what type of procedure is performed to remove the mole.


For more information on mole removal, look at our procedure pages, read our information leaflet and view our gallery.


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