How to distinguish a mole from a papilloma. What is the difference?


Cases of detecting melanoma and other types of skin cancer are becoming more frequent. This trend is very worrying for oncologists. There is a direct connection between different types of skin formations and oncological diseases. It is important for anyone who is not indifferent to their health to know how the mole differs from papilloma and which of these neoplasms can degenerate over time into a cancerous tumor.

Moles and papillomas: what is the main difference

Papillomas and moles are two radically different types of skin neoplasms. They differ among themselves by the nature of origin, form and properties. Both types of doctors refer to benign structures, which tend to degenerate into a malignant tumor. Papillomas and moles

This property of normal cells to transform into cancer cells is called malignancy.
It does not matter if there is a mole or papilloma on the human body, the possibility of malignancy always exists. Moles are less prone to degeneration into a malignant tumor, papillomas are more prone. But in any case, you must be careful about any stain or protrusion on the skin. Especially if it changes its shape, color or size.

Moles can appear immediately after birth (congenital) and throughout a person’s life (acquired). At their core, they are large accumulations of pigment melanin cells. Moles are absolutely flat or slightly rising above the surface of the skin.

Papillomas have a completely different nature – viral. The appearance of these neoplasms begins with infection of a person with HPV (human papillomavirus). Infection enters the body in two ways: domestic and sexual. A month after infection, protruding growths appear in the infected person in the folds of the skin or on the mucous membrane. These are papillomas.

How to distinguish a mole from a papilloma: the main evaluation criteria

Even knowing the reason for the appearance of these neoplasms, it is not always clear what exactly we are dealing with. The following table summarizes the main features that determine the nature of skin changes:

No. p / p





Neoplasm structure

Loose / soft

Dense / solid


The presence / absence of blood vessels in the structure of the neoplasm

there is




Papilloma is asymmetric

The mole has a rounded shape and is almost symmetrical



Folds of the skin or mucous membrane (genitals, armpits, etc.)

Open areas of the body (face, chest, etc.)


Neoplasm form

It rises above the skin, has irregular, bumpy outlines

Ideally smooth or slightly convex (exception – papillomatous nevus)



From flesh to dark chocolate (color may change over time)

Different shades of brown (color does not change over time)


Hereditary predisposition to skin appearance

Appears 1-1.5 months after infection with the HPV virus. May appear at any age. Does not depend on heredity

Very often duplicated by relatives. Genetic dependency is


Associated symptoms

At the first stage of papilloma formation, palpable itching, the release of a clear fluid (exudate) may be present

Are absent


Neoplasm growth

Growing fast

Does not grow at all or very slowly, invisibly increases in size


The size

2-15 mm

Found as small, there are very large, occupying vast areas of the skin

From the data presented, it is clearly seen what is the difference between papilloma and mole. The first not only appears on the skin as a result of HPV infection, but also tends to progressive growth and discoloration. A mole may not change at all during a person’s life or grow so slowly that changes are not visible to the naked eye. How to identify a neoplasm

It is the progressive growth of a benign neoplasm that may indicate the start of the malignancy process. If the mole began to increase in size, a glossy shine appeared on its surface, or other changes, there is a high probability of degeneration of benign cells into malignant.

Another important criterion for distinguishing a mole from papillomas is that it is always colored dark (this is melanin). Papilloma is not necessarily dark. It may be bodily light. There are always microscopic blood vessels inside the papilloma, so when you try to independently remove this neoplasm, the wound will bleed. But this does not mean that plucking a mole is absolutely safe.

Types of Moles

Moles (or nevi) have several varieties, some of which are more prone to malignancy. These are the so-called "blue nevi." Such neoplasms have a bluish tint and are considered the most dangerous in terms of the possibility of oncology.

There are also several types of nevuses, which are very similar in shape to papillomas, but in fact they are not. These are intradermal, papillomatous, basal and other moles. The first 2 species can strongly protrude above the surface of the skin, and the basal is so weakly colored that it can be confused with papilloma.

The question arises, so how then to distinguish a papilloma from a mole if it is basal or intradermal? Here you can navigate the place of localization and its ability to change color or shape over time.

These qualities of papillomas and differ from moles. The latter usually appear on the face, arms, back and other exposed areas of the skin. Excessive amounts of ultraviolet radiation or trauma can cause the most common mole to turn into melanoma.

What is the difference between papillomas from other neoplasms

Papillomas like to "hide" in dark and humid places. They appear in the groin, under the armpits, on the oral mucosa, on the vocal cords, even on the internal organs (bladder, intestines), which never happens with an ordinary mole. In these places, HPV is actively propagating and occupying all large territories. Papilloma

Papillomavirus is not only dangerous, but also very common. Worldwide, more than 60% of the population is infected. There are several dozen varieties of HPV and more than 170 of their strains. The neoplasms resulting from this viral predatory activity are diverse.


  • Condyloma (usually on the genitals or near the anus);
  • Acrochordon (similar to a thin thread that often appears on the face and neck);
  • Wart (the most common type of papilloma; can be localized on any part of the body);
  • Skin horn (often in open areas of the body).

Despite the fact that moles and papillomas have very definite differences, a person without a medical education can confuse them. If even the list of differences set forth in the table does not make it possible to accurately determine the nature of the neoplasm, you should consult a doctor.

Only a competent specialist can determine the nature of education with 100% certainty and accurately determine whether malignancy occurs. For this, high-tech equipment is used, and a series of studies of tissue samples is performed (if cancer is suspected). Solving the problem with specialists

Treatment methods

It is not enough to know how to distinguish a mole from a papilloma. You need to be able to notice dangerous changes in time. It is necessary to consult a doctor if:

  • The mole has increased in size and has become more than 1 cm in diameter;
  • The shade of the nevus has changed or an unusual gloss has formed on it;
  • Itching, redness, or peeling appeared in this area;
  • A hair fell out of the nevus itself.

Do not self-medicate moles or papillomas in any case! Treatment is carried out only in a medical institution and consists in removing the growing papilloma with the help of liquid nitrogen, a laser or a surgeon's scalpel. Warts and moles can be removed using electrocoagulation techniques. The way to solve the problem is determined by a qualified doctor, not the patient himself.

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