Is a loosened mole that looks like it can be flicked off melanoma or benign?

“This could be a true ‘mole,’ which means it is made of melanocytes, or it could be a vascular growth such as an angioma, or even a skin tag or seborrheic keratosis [image above],” says Kally Papantoniou, MD, FAAD,with Simply Dermatology in NY.

  • Melanocytes are the cells that give a mole its pigment.
  • An angioma is a benign concentration of extremely tiny blood vessels.
  • A seborrheic keratosis is a harmless skin barnacle.

If something on your skin looks like a mole, as well as appears that it could be flicked or peeled off, it’s most likely a seborrheic keratosis and very unlikely to be a melanoma.

In fact, it’s possible for a seborrheic keratosis to be picked off—but don’t do it.

An actual mole cannot be readily picked off, even if it’s elevated and “catches” on a fingernail. Never try to pick off a mole or any spot on your skin.

Melanoma can grow inside a seborrheic keratosis but is not part of this benign skin barnacle; rather, if a melanoma is there, it’s just a coincidence that the cancer is growing in or very near the barnacle.

“If you have a growth that you are concerned about that has changed and is traumatized or appears like it can be easily flicked off, I would suggest having a dermatologist evaluate,” say Dr. Kally.

“It is always safer to be cautious; you don’t want to misdiagnose a malignancy, and if it is traumatized at home it could potentially become infected.

“Removing a growth like this is very simple and comfortable to do; most patients barely even feel the pinch from the anesthetic.”

Moles are not meant to be flicked or picked off.

Dr. Papantonioudr. kally is a board certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic, laser and surgical dermatology.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.