Wart or Mole: How to Tell the Difference

Perhaps you have developed a small lesion on your skin, and you are wondering if it is a wart or a mole. The confusion is easy to understand. Warts are caused by HPV (the human papilloma virus), whereas moles can be caused by tanning, or you may simply be born with them. Warts and moles can seem similar, but there are a few simple ways to them apart:

Color– Both warts and moles can manifest as raised areas on the skin, but they usually differ in color. A wart is often skin-colored or whitish, whereas most moles are brown or black. Some moles are also skin-colored, but they do tend to be slightly darker than the rest of your skin.

Appearance– A wart often has a shiny appearance, like a blister. Moles do not look shiny, and simply look like skin.

Hair– It is not uncommon to see a mole with hair growing out of it. Warts seldom have hair growing out of them.

Contagious?– You can infect someone with a wart (caused by the human papilloma virus) by direct contact with your skin or a shared surface, such as clothing. Moles are not contagious, although their appeareance can be linked to a disease such as skin cancer. If you see a new mole that has developed with an irregular border, asymmetrical shape, is elevated and larger than a pencil eraser should be examined by a doctor, as it may be a symptom of skin cancer.

Duration– Once a mole develops, it will be on your skin for life, unless you have it removed. A wart may fall off of it’s own accord, and then grow back later on.

Pain– Moles are rarely painful, unless irritated by your clothing or jewelry. Warts can be very painful

Removal– Both can be removed by a doctor. Warts are commonly removed using cryotherapy (freezing), and moles are usually removed by electrocautery (cauterizing using electricity). Warts can also be removed with over the counter treatments such as acid-based medicinal ointments.

Maybe it’s a skin tag– The lesion could be a skin tag. A skin tag is a type of mole characterized by a slender short stalk growing out of your skin. Skin tags commonly form on irritated skin, or places where skin rubs together.

You should always visit your doctor if you develop a lesion on your skin. Any new lesion anywhere on your body could be a sign of serious illness, such as skin cancer, sexually transmitted disease, or other condition.

It is also important not to over-react. The lesion on your skin may just as easily be something harmless like a pimple.

Generally speaking, it is common for people to develop new moles during the first 2 decades of life. More moles will appear with age due to sun exposure and shrinking telomeres. Moles and liver spots are a normal part of the aging process.

Warts only occur when you have been exposed to the human papilloma virus. Common places to get warts are the hands, fingers, face, feet, and genitalia.

Moles and warts both can occur anywhere on the body. Warts are fairly common on the soles of people’s feet. They are flat, white, and painless, and are referred to as Plantar’s Warts.


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