ATYPICAL MOLES

Definition: "Atypical moles"
(also referred to as Clark’s nevi or dysplastic nevi) are moles that are considered to be precancerous or more likely to turn into melanoma than regular moles. When looking at an atypical mole on the skin, one will see some of the features that one sees when looking at melanoma such as: an irregular border, slight variation in color, or asymmetry (if you cut the mole in half, the two halves do not look the same). When a pathologist looks at an atypical mole under the microscope, it has features that are in-between a normal mole and a melanoma. Most experts believe that atypical moles are at higher risk of turning into melanoma as compared to normal moles. Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer which kills quickly if not removed in time

Causes: The tendency to develop atypical moles is inherited (runs in families). Exposing the skin to sunlight is thought to lead to the development of atypical moles.

Prevention:

Use sunscreen daily on exposed skin areas.

If you have a family member who has had a melanoma and you have atypical moles, you should have a complete skin exam each year.

People with many atypical moles should have a complete skin exam each year. You should also check your own moles once a month. If one mole seems to be changing more than your other moles or is marching out of step with your other moles it should be removed immediately by a plastic surgeon.

Treatment:
Atypical moles should be removed immediately if they are changing color, shape or size over a period of weeks to months. These moles should also be removed immediately if they bleed or itch. These signs all suggest that an atypical mole may have turned into a melanoma.

The only safe way to remove an atypical mole is to have it cut out. The specimen is then sent to the pathologist to be analyzed under the microscope. Removing an atypical mole leaves a permanent scar.

If an atypical mole looks like it could be an early melanoma, the plastic surgeon will recommend removal as soon as possible. Sometimes the only way to be absolutely sure that an atypical mole is not a melanoma is to have it removed and analyzed.



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