An atypical mole is a benign (non-cancerous) growth that shares some of the features of melanoma but is NOT melanoma. However, the presence of an atypical nevus may increase the risk of development of a melanoma or be a marker for it. The risk of melanoma increases with the number of atypical moles. An atypical mole can vary in appearance but often has the ABCD features of melanoma.
- a-asymmetry: One half of the mole does not match the other in size, shape, thickness or color.
- B-Border Irregularity:The edges are blurred; ragged, scalloped or poorly defined (you can’t tell where the mole starts.
- c-color: The pigment in the mole is not uniform or homogenous throughout. Shades of tan, brown, red or black are present. The mole may be speckled or multiple colors.
- d-diameter: While melanomas are usually larger than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) they can be smaller. Any mole that looks different that most of your other ones, changes in size, shape or color and or itches or bleeds easily should be evaluated by one of our dermatology professionals.
The lifetime risk of a person developing melanoma is 1 in 75. A patient with one to four atypical nevi without a family history of melanoma is at a slighter higher risk than the general population for developing a melanoma. The risk of developing a melanoma is higher if a patient with atypical nevi has a personal or family history of melanoma.
Atypical nevi begin to appear at puberty and can occur anywhere on the body but most commonly on sun exposed areas like the back, arms and legs. Since atypical nevi are not melanoma, they should be watched closely or conservatively removed for reduction in overall skin cancer risk. Patients with atypical nevi should be examined by a dermatology provider every 3 to 12 months beginning at puberty. Providers may also recommend skin photography, eye exams and regular dermatology surveillance and self exams to permit early detection and treatment of melanomas and therefore ensuring a high cure rate.