The word “atypical” means “not like the rest.” “Nevus” is the medical term for “mole.” Dermatologists use the term atypical nevus to describe a mole that does not look like a normal mole. Another term that dermatologist use to describe this type of mole is “dysplastic nevus.”
Regardless of the term, these moles are benign (not cancer). Your dermatologist will tell you when you have this type of mole because you need to watch atypical moles.
SKIN CANCER RISK
Atypical moles are not cancerous, but some people who have these moles have a higher risk of getting melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancer. The risk of getting melanoma increases significantly when a person with atypical nevus has one or more of the following:
If a person has four or fewer atypical moles and none o the above factors, the increased risk of getting melanoma is small.
ATYPICAL NEVUS APPEARANCE
Atypical moles come in many shapes and sizes. An atypical mole is often larger than other moles. Some atypical moles have more than one color. Others have a fuzzy border. These traits can make an atypical mole look like a melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. But an atypical mole is not melanoma-or any other type of skin cancer.
Atypical moles usually begin to appear at or around puberty. Adults can get these moles too.
Atypical moles can appear anywhere oon the body, but they are most common on the trunk. It is rare to see atypical moles on the face, but these moles develop on the scalp, head, and neck.
An atypical mole does not need treatment. If a dermatologist suspects that an atypical mole might be a melanoma, the dermatologist will remove the mole, or part of it.
The removed mole will be sent to a lab where it will be examined under a microscope. This is known as a skin biopsy and is necessary to diagnose skin cancer.
You should watch all atypical moles for signs of change. Melanoma can form in an atypical mole, and a common warning sign of melanoma is change. When looking at your atypical moles, you should look for changes in:
If you notice any of these changes in a mole, immediately tell your dermatologist. Melanoma has a high cure rate when caught early and treated.
FAMILIAL ATYPICAL MOLE-MELANOMA (FAMM) SYNDROME)
Your dermatologist may talk with your about FAMM syndrome. Some people who have atypical moles have this syndrome, which greatly increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma.
People with FAMM syndrome have all of the following:
For some patients who have FAMM syndrome, a dermatologist also will recommend:
REDUCE THE RISK OF MELANOMA
You can take steps to reduce your risk of getting melanoma and other skin cancers. Sun protection has been shown to decrease the risk of melanoma. Here’s how you can protect your skin from the sun:
All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology.