What differentiates a wart and a mole?

Moles and warts are two very common types of skin growths and formations. Both are usually asymptomatic, but they can indicate a problem or harmful changes in the skin and therefore should be monitored.

In colloquial language, a mole is often referred to as what doctors call a melanocytic nevus, a type of benign tumor that forms by the growth and accumulation of melanocytes. Warts, in turn, are skin lesions caused by the human papilloma virus.

They are also popularly called warts. skin tags another type of benign tumor such as the mole or melanocytic nevus, but which in its etiology has nothing to do with the true warts produced by the papilloma virus.


Moles are considered a type of benign tumor called a melanocytic nevus. It is the most common benign tumor in Caucasians, while in people with a dark phototype it is relatively rare.

They are formed by the growth and accumulation of nevus cells with a high content of melanin. These cells are believed to be formed from melanocytes, although this is not exactly known.

Size, shape and color can be highly variable. Typical moles are small spots on the skin that are brown, black or red, but with a homogeneous, flat or slightly raised color, smooth surface, defined edges, symmetrical and with a size that can reach 2 or 3 cm. A mole with a diameter greater than 6 mm is already considered a large mole.

The vast majority of people have moles, even some. Moles usually appear during childhood and adolescence, but they can also be present from birth or develop during adulthood.

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Cutaneous melanoma is also a melanocytic tumor, like the mole, but unlike that, melanoma is malignant and therefore a type of cancer. The moles are always asymptomatic and the presence of any symptoms (itching, pain, swelling, etc.) should be consulted with a doctor.

Only moles subjected to continuous friction, very exposed to solar radiation, very large, with irregular edges, that bruise, bleed and other symptoms that can increase the risk of developing melanomas are treated for medical reasons.

Warts and skin tags

Warts, from a medical point of view, are a skin lesion caused by human papillomavirus but colloquially it is much more common to call what doctors call a skin tag wart or fibroma.

Warts often appear as bumps on the skin with a rough texture. They can be light or dark brown, even black. They are most common on the hands (common wart), soles of the feet (crow’s eyes or plantar warts), legs and genitals (including the inside of the vagina, urethra and anus). They can also appear on the forehead and face, especially in children.

Warts, being caused by the papilloma virus, they are contagious unlike moles and skin tags which are not contagious in any case.

The skin tag, in turn, is considered a benign tumor, just like the nevus or the mole, but unlike the mole, the skin tag grows as a bulge attached to the skin by a fleshy stem called a peduncle.

Skin tags can be rough or smooth and are usually the same color as the surrounding skin. It usually comes out in areas where the skin creases and is believed to be due to continuous friction.

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Some studies have also found the presence of human papillomavirus (types 6 and 11) in acrochordons, but its pathogenesis is not well understood. It is more common in people who are overweight, diabetics, pregnant women, acromegaly and rare syndromes such as Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome or polycystic ovary syndrome.

Skin tags usually do not require medical attention or produce symptoms unless they appear in areas where they are subjected to constant pulling and rubbing. The wart also doesn’t usually cause symptoms, except for plantar warts, which are painful.

Papilloma warts on certain parts of the genitalia, such as the vulva and cervix, are associated with an increased risk of cancer of the vulva and cervix.

Warts on the genitals and face should always be consulted with the doctor, while on other parts of the body they can be removed with minor surgery and even topical over-the-counter medications.


Skin tag (left, benign tumor) and filiform wart (right, papillomavirus lesion) Various skin tags on neck plantar warts

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