There’s a surprising number of benign reasons for a mole to begin itching.
Though melanoma indeed can cause a mole to be itchy, this symptom often has a cause other than cancer.
“Moles can become itchy for a variety of reasons,” says Sharyn Laughlin, MD, dermatologist and developer of the DermaEnvy Skincare ™ line of sun protection products and medical director of Laserderm, a pioneering laser skin surgery clinic in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Causes of Itchy Mole other than Melanoma
“For example, there might be some coincidental dermatologic condition involving the area where the mole is located,” says Dr. Laughlin.
“These include, but are not limited to, various rashes, contact or irritant allergic dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema.
“There could be contributing inflammation from acne, or there might be a pustule underneath the mole or something like a bite.
“One can also develop an immune reaction to the mole, and this is called a halo nevus. The mole is being gradually reduced in size and color while developing a surrounding color that appears like a halo.” melanoma
If you have a halo nevus (“nevus” means mole), you will know it once you view it. The halo is hard to miss.
When my nephew was 14, I spotted several on his back when he was outside. They most often occur in teenagers.
Dr. Laughlin continues about halo nevi, “This is the body trying to destroy the mole, and the inflammatory reaction produces an itch. We originally thought this was bad – a sign of malignancy – but we now know that it can happen to benign moles. melanoma
“A good rule of thumb is that if you have a mole with changes that persist over a three month period, then you should show it to a dermatologist.
“Many benign things come and go within a three month period. If a mole continues to change and evolve for longer than this, then it should be examined and a biopsy considered by your dermatologist.”
Bear in mind that the itching might not even be coming from the mole but from very close to it.
Interesting Cause of Itching Moles on the Face
Don’t jump to the conclusion it’s melanoma. The tip of a single strand of hair can be making contact with a mole. This will make it itch.
The hair may be touching the mole at a 90 degree angle to it (if you have the type of hair for which isolated strands will float into the air and curl towards the face rather than hang vertically limp).
Or, the strand may be lying flat against the mole.
The strand may also be making contact with the skin just a few millimeters from the mole, creating the illusion that the itching is coming directly from the mole.
It’s amazing how much a single strand of hair can create an itchy feeling. This is easily confirmed by viewing the mole with a hand mirror – especially one with a magnification.
If certain moles on your face seem to always be itching, have a 20x hand mirror nearby to check for strands of hair making contact with that area.
And while you’re at it, get familiar with what the moles look like so that your monthly home melanoma screening will be that much easier.
In practice for 30+ years, Dr. Laughlin has been lead or co-investigator in many research trials and an innovator in developing new laser technology. dermaenvy.com/cyberderm and Laserderm.
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.