Atypical Moles

Atypical moles, or dysplastic nevi, are moles that look unusual, may resemble melanoma, but aren’t cancerous. The importance of recognizing atypical moles is that the person with these growths is at an increased risk for the development of melanoma. The extent of the risk will be determined by several different factors.

According to medical research, atypical moles develop in two to eight percent of Caucasians. In women, they are most often seen on the legs, while men may have atypical moles somewhere on the torso. The risk for melanoma increases significantly in a person who has one or more atypical moles as well as a family history of melanoma.

An atypical mole may be carefully monitored or may be biopsied to rule out skin cancer. A biopsy is a small sampling of tissue taken through a minor surgical procedure.

Tips for the patient with dysplastic nevi

If one or more atypical moles are identified, it can be beneficial to:
  • Speak with family members to determine if there may be a family history of atypical moles, skin cancers, or melanoma. Discuss findings with an experienced physician.
  • Receive regular skin cancer screenings as recommended, and learn how to perform self-examinations for the close monitoring of new and existing moles. Self examinations are recommended on a monthly basis and can be demonstrated by your dermatologist.
  • Practice sun safety by avoiding excessive exposure to UV rays, which stimulate the growth of new moles and skin cancers.
  • Schedule the prompt evaluation of any changing or new mole.
Atypical moles should prompt further evaluation but need not evoke unnecessary worry. Dr. Ron Shelton helps new and existing patients guard their health with the careful examination of moles during routine skin screenings. The conscientious assessment of atypical moles can greatly reduce the risk of melanoma.

What if it is skin cancer?

Today, there are more options for the treatment of skin cancer than ever before. What is even more promising is that these treatments have improved the overall prognosis of early-detected cancers. The longer it takes to recognize skin cancer, the more cancer cells are able to advance and the more complex treatment may need to be. In the office of your experienced dermatologist, you will find treatment options designed for the best possible outcome.

To schedule your skin examination in our Midtown Manhattan dermatology office, call (212) 593-1818.

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RealSelf Q&A with Ronald Shelton, MD