How are moles and other nevi removed?

Photo of a marking of a skin area on the shoulder blade

Moles and other types of nevus only rarely have to be removed for medical reasons. Some people want them removed for cosmetic reasons. A small surgical procedure is often all it takes.

Moles and other nevi may stand out. Some people see them as an attractive special feature and like their “beauty spots.” Others find them bothersome or have a raised nevus in an inconvenient place where it can easily be scraped open, for instance. You can then have it removed. Purely cosmetic procedures usually have to be paid for out of your own pocket.

If doctors notice certain concerning changes in moles or other nevi, they are always removed. Because the reason for this treatment is suspected skin cancer, the costs are covered by your health insurance.

How are moles and other nevi removed?

Nevi that have to be removed are cut out of the skin. The doctor numbs the area first with an injection. Normally, only small cuts are needed. The wound is sewn up after the procedure. Very large nevi are removed piece by piece in several procedures. Sometimes a general anesthetic has to be used when removing large nevi – for example, in children. In very rare cases, a skin graft is needed to close the wound.

Complications are rare. Like with all surgical procedures, though, the wound might become infected or there may be bleeding or nerve damage. If a general anesthetic is used, it could cause circulation and breathing problems. Depending on the size of the surgical wound, it might leave scars. To reduce the risk of scarring, the affected area of skin shouldn’t be put under strain for a while. It is best to talk to your doctor about how long you should avoid doing things like sports and other physical exercise.

Can they be removed in other ways?

Treatment approaches using cold, electricity or lasers are not suitable for removing moles and other nevi. This is because they destroy the tissue so it can no longer be closely examined afterwards. Then it’s not possible to check whether there were cancer cells in the nevus. These treatments can leave bothersome scars, too.

People who want to get rid of a nevus might also come across methods like applying medical bleach to the skin, or home remedies like vinegar compresses. But there's hardly any research on whether these methods work and what side effects they have, so it's not advisable to use them.

You certainly shouldn't ever try to scrape off a mole or other nevus, or remove it yourself with sharp objects like razorblades. If you do, the risk of wound infections is much higher than in a doctor’s office. And it's always better to have a medical professional see the nevus: They can spot signs of melanoma skin cancer that you might not recognize yourself.

ALMutairi HM, Al-Hothali GI. The outcome of using different surgical modalities and laser therapy in the treatment of small- and medium-sized congenital melanocytic nevi: a systematic review. Int J Dermatol 2020; 59(5): 535-542.

Moll I. Duale Reihe Dermatologie. Stuttgart: Thieme; 2016.

Tronnier M. Melanotische Flecke und melanozytäre Nävi. In: Braun-Falco's Dermatologie, Venerologie und Allergologie. Springer; 2018.

Williams H, Bigby M, Herxheimer A et al. Evidence-Based Dermatology. Hoboken: Wiley; 2014.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Created on February 28, 2024

Next planned update: 2027


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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