What's a "Normal" Mole?
What's an "Atypical" Mole?
Atypical moles (a.k.a. dysplastic nevi) are skin growths that usually range in color from tan to dark brown, with more than one shade within a single mole. They're asymmetrical and have a raised center with irregular and/or indistinct, flat borders that fade into the surrounding skin. They're often larger than common moles.
Dysplastic nevi are found mostly on the back, chest, abdomen and extremities, but may also appear on the scalp, buttocks, groin or female breasts. They usually look different from any normal moles you have on your body and sometimes resemble a melanoma (a potentially deadly skin cancer).
Why "Atypical" Moles Should Concern You
Although atypical moles are benign, their presence poses an increased risk of developing melanoma. The greater the number of atypical moles, the greater your melanoma risk. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, people who have 10 or more atypical moles have 12 times the risk of developing melanoma compared to the general population.
People who have atypical moles and who have two or more close blood relatives with melanoma are at an extremely high risk of developing melanoma. Even those who have atypical moles but no melanoma family history face a seven to 27 times higher risk of developing melanoma compared to the general population, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation.
Warning Signs That "Atypical" May Lead to Cancer
If you develop a new mole or pigmented spot; or if you notice a change in size, shape or color in an existing mole; or if an existing mole itches, hurts, becomes elevated, bleeds, crusts, swells, oozes, forms ulcers, and/or is a bluish-black color, see your physician or dermatologist immediately.
What You Should Do if You Have "Atypical" Moles
Perform monthly skin self-examinations and get regular professional skin exams from your doctor or dermatologist. Wear sunscreens and clothing that protect you from the sun's ultraviolet rays and stay out of the sun whenever possible.
For more information visit The Skin Cancer Foundation, The American Academy of Dermatology and The National Cancer Institute.