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.