Dysplastic Nevi Atypical Moles

Having a few moles on your skin is not a cause for alarm. Most people have about 10 to 20 benign moles that pose no health risk and are unlikely to develop into skin cancer.

Atypical moles or dysplastic nevi have an irregular shape or color. If you have atypical moles, melanoma is a much higher risk for you. For this reason, dysplastic nevi are often removed or at least closely monitored by a doctor.

Normal Moles

Many moles are normal and remain benign and unchanging throughout your lifetime. Typical moles appear in the first few decades of life and are most often the result of sun exposure.

Normal moles are uniform in color, usually some shade of brown. They’re round with even and symmetrical borders, they tend to be flat or slightly raised from the skin and they’re usually located in areas exposed to the sun, such as the back, neck or face.

Dysplastic Nevi

Dysplastic nevi, or atypical moles may have:

  • An asymmetrical shape
  • A changing appearance
  • Irregular borders
  • Large size
  • Multiple colors in one mole.

These moles are benign, but they resemble melanoma and may develop into melanoma. They can develop anywhere on the body but most often appear on the trunk.

Some individuals are affected by a condition called atypical mole syndrome, sometimes called dysplastic nevus syndrome. Individuals with classic atypical mole syndrome have:

  • At least 100 moles
  • One or more atypical moles
  • One or more moles with a diameter greater than eight millimeters.

Other people have the symptoms of atypical mole syndrome, as well as a family history of melanoma. This condition is known as familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome (FAMMM). For individuals with atypical moles, melanoma risk depends on several factors, including the number of atypical moles and a family or personal history of skin cancer.

Dysplastic Nevi Treatment Options

Tell you doctor if you notice any new growth or changes to a mole. Your doctor will examine the mole and may take a biopsy, or tissue sample, that he will examine under a microscope for signs of cancer.

Atypical moles and melanoma lesions are on a continuum: Some atypical moles more closely resemble typical moles, whereas others look more like melanoma. These differences and your risk for developing skin cancer influence your doctor’s choice of treatment.

If your doctor advises removing the lesion, several methods of treatment are available. Treatment usually involves some form of surgical excision of the mole and some surrounding tissue to ensure all possibly cancerous cells are removed.

Some suggestions for individuals with dysplastic nevi:

  • Limit sun exposure, and use sunscreen or protective clothing.
  • Provide your doctor with your family’s history of atypical moles or skin cancer.
  • See your doctor for skin examinations annually or more frequently if your doctor recommends it.
  • Perform self-examinations to look for changes between doctor visits. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a self-check at least every three months.


American Academy of Dermatology. (2010). Atypical nevus. Retrieved June 24, 2010, from http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/sun_atypical.html

Cigna. (n.d.). Atypical mole syndrome. Retrieved June 25, 2010, from http://www.cigna.com/healthinfo/nord633.html

The Skin Cancer Foundation. (2010). Dysplastic nevi: Atypical moles and risk of melanoma. Retrieved June 24, 2010, from http://www.skincancer.org/dysplastic-nevi-atypical-moles.html