It is often said that removing hairs (a hair) from a mole (melanocytic nevus) is not a wise thing to do. It is often said that this would increase the chance of the mole becomming cancerous (turning into a melanoma).

Has there ever been a study that actually suggests that removing hairs from a mole is harmful (in any measure)?

N.B. Searching the web I mostly found people who say that no evidence has been found, however I did not find anyone mentioning a specific study. (If no study was ever done, then one would have no evidence indeed.) Hence this question.


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As per my comment, this was actually asked in the NY Times Science section.

Q. If I tweeze out the single hair that grows from a facial mole, will it cause cancer, as my friend insists?

A. “No,” said Dr. Mark D. Kaufmann, a dermatologist in Manhattan. “Even by cutting, you don’t change the behavior of a mole.”

Netdoctor (a UK site), also agrees with this (emphasis mine):

There is no evidence to suggest that removing hairs from moles is likely to be harmful in any way. Most moles are not 'cancerous' and do not have the potential to become so.

Boston.com (an extension of the Boston Globe?) also says the same thing as the NY Times article:

No. ''You can do anything you want to a mole, pretty much," said Dr. Bernard Cohen, interim chair of dermatology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. ''If you want to pluck, shave, wax, or use electrolysis on a mole, there's no evidence that this will cause a melanoma, or any other kind of skin cancer."

As a matter of fact, virtually every site said the same thing when I searched google trying to find people who actually believe that it does cause cancer to remove hair. So I would say that the studies have been done, and overwhelmingly concluded that hair removal has no effect. Most of us here are not privy to the published Journals though to cite them directly. I tried to refine my search to just .edu sites, and couldn't get to the primary documentation though. (For instance, Google Scholar turned up this one for AU$4. I suspect that this publication may also address the concern, but it doesn't clearly state so in the abstract.)

This may be a good opportunity though to apply some scientific type of thought to the question. We know what melanoma is, so how would the process of removing a hair cause a benign cell to become cancerous? There is a possible mechanism (thanks Sean) via irritation, however it doesn't seem conclusive.

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    It is suggested that the real life mechanism at play would be that a hair that grows back (after being removed of course) has an increased risc of becoming infected, since it would be more difficult for such a hair to penetrate the skin for various reasons.
    – gebruiker
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 13:56
  • @gebruiker does infection cause cancer? As recall (and I am NOT in the medical field), you have to somehow affect DNA, and again not sure how the two correlate. And I am still searching for the actual publications, but keep hitting paywalls.
    – JasonR
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 13:58
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    I believe certain viruses are known to have the ability to tamper with DNA to some extent. These viruses could perhaps be found in the infected area. That's why it seems plausible to me, and that's why I am so eager to find actual 'primairy documentation'.
    – gebruiker
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 14:03
  • Try Google Scholar.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 14:13
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    The explanation I've generally seen for situations such as this, also sometimes cited for things like underwire bras, is that the irritation causes the body to replace the "damaged" cells more rapidly than normal. More cell replication means more chance of errors means it's more likely that an error results in cancer. Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 13:30

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