Both skin tag and mole grow on the skin. Wondering if you have a skin tag or mole? Let’s find out the similarities and differences between skin tags and moles.

Moles and skin tags are common growths that are visible on the skin. You may not even be aware of their presence unless they are in a visible or physically noticeable area. They do not cause pain or discomfort, and they are non-contagious. There are many similarities between skin tags and moles, so you may be slightly confused between the two. But they also have some key differences, starting with their appearance. Read on to know the similarities and differences between skin tags and moles.

What is a skin tag?

A skin tag, also known as acrochordons, is an extra outpouching of skin with a small tiny vessel in the core of it. It is nothing but skin protruding out of the skin attached with a stalk. You often see them in the body folds like neck folds, underarms, underneath the breasts, and occasionally on the abdomen, says dermatologist Dr Geetika Srivastava.

A woman with skin tags and mole
Skin tags and moles are pretty similar. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What is a mole?

Many of us call the “mole” a beauty spot. It is actually an aggregation of melanocytes or the melanin forming cells. A mole, also known as naevi, are mostly superficial or epidermal mole. A mole is often harmless, can present at birth as a congenital melanocytic naevus or can develop during adulthood and teenage years.

What are the similarities between mole and skin tags?

Here are some of the similarities between the two:

1. Mostly asymptomatic

Moles and skin tags are generally asymptomatic, meaning they do not cause pain, or discomfort. This asymptomatic characteristic means that, in many cases, no medical intervention is required unless for cosmetic reasons.

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2. Non-infectious

Neither moles nor skin tags are caused by infections, and they do not harbor infectious agents. So, these skin growths cannot be spread from one person to another, which alleviates concerns about contagion or spreading through physical contact.

3. Non-contagious

In addition to being non-infectious, moles and skin tags are also non-contagious. They do not spread from person to person, and their appearance is generally linked to genetic factors, skin friction, or other non-communicable causes, says the expert.

4. Similar treatments

When mole removal is needed, or you want to get rid of skin tags, both can be effectively treated with similar medical procedures. Cauterisation, cryosurgery, and excision are common methods used to remove these growths –

  • Cauterisation involves burning the skin growth with a small probe that emits heat.
  • Cryosurgery uses extreme cold, often through liquid nitrogen, to freeze and destroy the growth.
  • Excision entails cutting out the growth with a surgical tool, usually under local anesthesia.

These procedures are generally quick, and minimally invasive, says Dr Srivastava.

What are the differences between skin tags and mole?

Moles and tags differ in various aspects.

1. Appearance

Skin tags are sessile or pedunculated lesions, which means they are either with a stalk or not. Moles are always sessile.

2. Size

Skin tags are usually 1 to 5 mm large, and rarely can be larger.
Moles can range from few millimeters to larger centimeters, especially the congenital melanocytic naevus that can involve the entire lower body, hence the name “bathing trunk naevus”.

3. Shape

Skin tags often have irregular surface, are protruded lesions, globoid or oval in shape. Moles are often round, and flat topped lesions.

4. Distribution

Skin tags are often seen in the parts of body which are prone to friction, like neck folds, underarms, underneath the breasts, and eyelids. Moles can occur on any parts of the body, including scalp, armpit, eyelids, cornea and even under the nail bed.

A woman with skin tags and moles
Overweight people often have skin tags. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

5. Predisposition

Overweight people, pregnant women, diabetics and those with metabolic syndrome are more prone to skin tags. This may be because of increased friction in the areas where your skin rubs together. Being overweight, pregnant or having diabetes may also lead to metabolic changes that trigger the production of excess skin cells. Moles, on the other hand, can occur in everyone, says the expert.

6. Course

Skin tags slowly increase in size with advancing age and increasing weight.
A black epidermal, flat topped mole can become dermal, skin coloured, larger and deep with time. Sometimes moles can spontaneously disappear without any intervention.

Can skin tags or mole be cancerous?

While skin tags are non-cancerous and pose no risk of turning into skin cancer, moles require closer scrutiny due to their potential to become malignant, says the expert.

A common mole turning into melanoma, which is the most serious type of skin cancer, is very rare, according to the US’ National Cancer Institute. But people who have several small moles or large ones have a greater risk of developing melanoma.

Regular self-examinations and dermatological check-ups are vital for early detection and treatment of melanoma. A mole that stands out as different in appearance. This mole might differ in size, shape, colour, or texture from the surrounding moles, signaling a need for medical evaluation.

Skin tags and moles are common skin growths, but they are different when it comes to the size, colour and shape.

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