The results of mole removal are usually permanent, but it is not impossible for a mole to grow back and even increase in size after it has been removed. The regrowth of a mole is largely due to the nature of the mole (benign or malignant) and the type of procedure used in the first place. 

To get a better understanding, it would be helpful to find out about the types of moles and mole removal options.

Moles — types, nature, why they grow

Moles are skin growths or lesions referred to as a nevus (nevi, plural) in medical terms. We identify nevus as a visible, circumscribed, chronic lesion that can be found on the skin or mucosa. They may appear similar to other common skin lesions such as skin tags, freckles, moles and seborrheic keratosis. 

Most moles are harmless and are usually pink, brown or tan and come with distinct borders. Some moles develop from melanocytes which are cells that make a pigment called melanin. Melanin is responsible for giving our skin and hair their natural colour and protecting our body from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. As people with lighter skin have less natural protection from UV, they are more likely to develop new moles after exposure to the sun. In addition, their moles tend to be darker too. 

We refer to harmless moles as benign moles. The most common types of benign mole are:

Compound melanocytic nevi

These are what we know as raised moles and are usually light brown and sometimes hairy.

Dermal melanocytic nevi

These are similar to compound melanocytic nevi except they are paler in colour.

Junctional melanocytic nevi

These are the common brown, round and flat moles we have all over our body.

What are atypical moles?

Atypical moles, or dysplastic nevi, is the term used to describe unusual looking moles. By unusual, we mean that they are: 

  • Dark blue in colour (blue nevus) 
  • Larger in size and has an irregular border (dysplastic or atypical nevus)
  • Surrounded by a white ring (halo nevus) 

Atypical moles are often mistaken for melanoma, or cancerous moles. But they are not necessarily cancerous or precancerous. With that said, a dysplastic or atypical nevus has a higher chance of developing into melanoma.

Should I be worried if my mole changes over time?

Certain things can cause the appearance of moles to change over time, such as hormonal changes during pregnancy and exposure to sunlight. These changes usually include the darkening of development of new moles. However, if a mole becomes dysplastic, it might be a sign that it contains melanoma and it is advised to see a doctor. 

It is good to familiarise yourself with the lesions on your body so you would know if any change is normal or not. 

Ways to remove moles in Singapore

Surgical shave

Through this procedure, the mole is gently shaved off with a surgical blade or ablative laser by a surgeon. No stitches are required and the healing time takes about 1-2 weeks. Surgical shaving is usually used on smaller moles. For raised moles that are shaved off, the mole, as well as hair that might have grown in the area, might grow back.

Surgical excision

With surgical excision, both the mole and its ‘root’ are removed entirely from the skin. Removing the entire area of skin containing the abnormal mole cells ensures that every part of the mole is removed and will not grow back. Surgical excision is usually performed on larger, recurrent or cancerous moles. However, this procedure might leave a linear scar.

Laser removal

Laser mole removal is used commonly for aesthetic purposes. It is carried out mostly on moles that are flat or difficult to cut and/or shave. The laser uses light energy to break up the pigment of the mole or vaporize the mole cells. The chances of the mole growing back are relatively low but higher than excision.

Can a mole grow back after it’s been removed?

With every procedure, it’s hard to 100% predict if the removed lesion will grow back — the same goes for moles. Generally, if a mole has been removed completely without any cells left behind, it should not grow back. This is especially so for cancerous moles removed by surgical excision; it is vital to eliminate all cancerous cells. 

Shaved or laser moles are more likely to grow back. This is because the procedure does not remove the entire area of the involved skin, so if any cells are left behind, the mole can keep growing. So while shaving or laser removal is a simpler procedure with lesser risk of scarring, there is a small chance the mole can grow back.

References

  1. Tannous, Z. S., Mihm, M. C., Jr, Sober, A. J., & Duncan, L. M. (2005). Congenital melanocytic nevi: clinical and histopathologic features, risk of melanoma, and clinical management. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 52(2), 197–203. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2004.07.020
  2. Bong, J. L., & Perkins, W. (2003). Shave excision of benign facial melanocytic naevi: a patient’s satisfaction survey. Dermatologic surgery : official publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [et al.], 29(3), 227–229. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1524-4725.2003.29054.x