Worrisome Moles (Atypical Nevi)
What It is

"Mole" is not actually a medical term. When most patients talk about moles they are describing nevi. A suspicious mole often refers to an atypical nevus. An atypical nevus (also called a dysplastic nevus) is a benign growth that may share some of the clinical or microscopic features of melanoma, but is not a melanoma or any other form of cancer. The presence of atypical nevi may increase the risk of developing a melanoma, or be a marker for someone who is at risk of developing melanoma. This increased risk varies from very small for those with a single atypical nevus to higher for those with many atypical nevi.

What does an atypical nevus look like? By definition, atypical nevi have a variable appearance.
  • A—asymmetrical (one portion larger than the other)
  • B— tend to have an irregular border which can fade into the surrounding skin
  • C— variably colored (typically with shades of tan, brown, black and red)
  • D—large (diameter greater than 6 mm)
  • E—slightly raised (elevated)

An atypical nevus will have characteristic microscopic features found on a skin biopsy.

Where do atypical nevi occur?

Atypical nevi can occur anywhere on the body and usually begin to appear at puberty. They may, however, be more common in sun-exposed areas, such as the back and the legs.

The contents of PiedmontDermatology.com are for general educational and informational purposes only and not to be misconstrued as treatment advice or medical diagnosis. This information does not replace the advice of a physician, nor does it imply a physican – patient relationship between the reader, Dr. Gross and Piedmont Dermatology Center.