Best Method of Mole Removal?

I want to prevent scarring and recurrence. Is it better to cut with a scalpel, radiofrequency surgery, or laser?

Doctor Answers 3

Mole removal

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First of all, the mole needs to be assessed to whether or not there are any suspicious characteristics that warrant a biopsy.  If this is the case a shave biopsy or a complete surgical excision of the lesion is recommended. 

Mole removal risks: scarring and recurrence

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Reasons for removing moles:

1. The appearance of the mole bothers you.

2. The appearance of the mole bothers your physician (i.e. suspicious appearance that is concerning for premalignant or malignant changes.)

If there are suspicious characteristics (irregular color, irregular borders, enlarging size, bleeding, pain, asymmetry), then a surgical biopsy is necessary. This can either be a shave biopsy or an excisional biopsy.

Excisional biopsy (cutting the mole out) minimizes the risk of recurrence but leads to a linear scar that is longer than the original mole.

Shave biopsy (shaving the mole flush with the skin) generally produces less scarring but entails a greater risk of recurrence.

Ronald Friedman, MD
Plano Plastic Surgeon


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Two of these methods are basically the same: surgery and cut with a scalpel. I do not recommend either of the other two for mole removal.

Any experienced dermatologist can recite a tale of woe about a patient ( not theirs) who had a presumably benign mole removed which turned out to be malignant. I have heard of two such cases. It is always prudent to send a specimen off to pathology to prevent such a tragedy.

Any method will leave a scar. A skilled dermatologist or plastic surgeon should be able to minimize the scar with good surgical technique. If the scar is unacceptable you could have laser used afterwards but I would recommend surgery first.

Arnold R. Oppenheim, MD
Virginia Beach Dermatologist

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