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Who Gets Mole Biopsies?

Mole biopsies are for people with moles that look different from other moles. The ABCDE rule for risks of melanoma – a serious form of skin cancer -- can determine whether moles should be biopsied:

  • A: asymmetrical
  • B: border (the outer edges are uneven)
  • C: color (dark black or multiple colors)
  • D: diameter (greater than a pencil eraser)
  • E: evolving (change in size, shape, and color)

Mole Biopsy

Mole biopsies are the best way for checking moles for skin cancer or other skin diseases. Talk to your primary care provider about getting a mole biopsy for any mole that suddenly appears, grows or changes color.

What are mole biopsies?

With a mole biopsy, some or all of the growth is removed.  The mole is then looked at by a pathologist under a microscope.

There are three types of mole biopsies:

  • Shave biopsy: A tool slices away at the raised mole and part of the surrounding skin.
  • Punch biopsy: A punch tool that looks like a cookie cutter is used. The punch goes around the mole and removes the mole and tissue beneath it.
  • Excisional biopsy: Excisional biopsies are done by cutting around the mole and into the fatty tissue beneath the skin.

Having a mole biopsy should not be painful, but may cause some discomfort. Patients receive numbing medication before the biopsy is done.