Mole removal

Can removing a mole cause cancer?

Removing a mole cannot cause skin cancer. However, sometimes when a doctor removes a "suspicious mole" and has the tissue examined by a skin pathologist, the diagnosis is skin cancer. In other words, the procedure didn't cause the skin cancer but it was a skin cancer all along. This can sometimes happen with spots, lumps and other skin lesions that don't look highly suspicious or harmful. For this reason, it's essential to have any unwanted mole examined and removed by a qualified skin cancer doctor or dermatologist

A mole removal procedure should be considered more of a process than a one-off procedure. Before the procedure, an accredited skin cancer doctor should examine the mole or skin lesion and take into consideration the patient's risk factors and medical history. This information may suggest that the "mole" is in fact a skin cancer or a pre-cancerous lesion. In any case where the examining doctor thinks there is a risk that the lesion is possibly a skin cancer, a biopsy must be performed, and the removed tissue examined by a skin pathologist to check for signs of cancer. If cancer is detected, it doesn't mean that removing the mole caused it; it was already a skin cancer.

In certain cases, it might seem that a mole removal procedure has "caused a skin cancer". A skin cancer, skin lesion or mole can be removed using several different methods. Even though none of these methods can cause a skin cancer, with some of these methods, removal of the mole might be incomplete and/or the mole might later grow back. When this happens, the appearance sometimes looks similar to skin cancer. This is especially common with moles that have been incompletely biopsied, or partially removed using a laser. The remaining or regrowing mole may have had its colour or shape altered by the procedure to resemble skin cancer. In these cases, if a second doctor examines the lesion without knowing the original diagnosis, they might decide to remove it due to the suspicious appearance.

Note that if a doctor removes a mole because of a suspicion that it might be cancer, it's covered by Medicare Australia. This does not apply if a mole is removed for cosmetic purposes only.

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