What is an atypical mole? How can I differentiate an atypical mole from a cancerous mole? These are all common questions that you will see around online. This article will explain what an atypical mole and what atypical mole syndrome means to your health. We will also highlight the options typically available for removal of atypical moles. Above all, we have posted several “atypical mole pictures” to give you an idea what atypical moles look like and help you take charge of your situation.
What Is an Atypical Mole?
An atypical mole, otherwise known as dysplastic nevi or Clark’s nevi, are abnormal but benign (non-cancerous) moles that may be confused for melanoma, a serious, aggressive form of skin cancer.
They typically don’t conform to the ABCDE rules that normal moles correspond to. They are often Asymmetrical with irregular Borders, different shades of Color, a Diameter that is larger than a pencil’s width, and may seem to be continuously Evolving. According to the WebMD website, the presence of atypical moles is usually a warning for inherited predisposition to melanoma.
The number of atypical moles can range from just 1 or 2 to over 100 in some individuals. The risk of developing melanoma increases as the number of atypical moles in an individual increase.
According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, individuals with over 10 moles are at 12 times more risk of developing melanoma than the general population. Atypical moles also tend to occur more in people suffering from melanoma than in the general population. Caucasians are also at relatively higher chances of developing atypical moles and as The Skin Cancer Foundation reports, 2-8 percent of the Caucasian population have atypical moles.
Atypical Mole Pictures
You have by now probably noticed our obsession with picturesJ and there is a good reason for that, and it is pretty simple: a picture speaks a thousand words. Those are the words of one wise man and it is a code we live by. On that note, here are more atypical mole pictures:
Atypical Mole Syndrome
Atypical moles are often associated with atypical mole syndrome which affects about 2 percent of the people.
Also referred to as Familial Atypical Multiple Mole Melanoma Syndrome (FAMMM syndrome) or Dysplastic Nevus Syndrome, atypical mole syndrome refers to a skin disorder characterized by occurrence of a huge number of moles – often more than 50 – on the skin, some of which are atypical.
To be classified as having atypical mole syndrome, a patient must fulfill the following conditions:
- Have lots of moles – usually more than 50
- Some of the moles (3 or more) are atypical
- At least 1 close relative has or has had malignant melanoma in the past.
Genetics is the most important factor for atypical mole syndrome but exposure to UV rays can as well lead to development of the condition. The Caucasian population particularly the fair skinned (Celtic) ones have a higher predisposition to atypical moles and atypical mole syndrome.
Since people with atypical mole syndrome are at higher risk of getting melanoma, it is advisable for them to get regular check-ups (at least once per year) by a dermatologist.
Such individuals should also check their skin regularly for any changes that may suggest an onset of melanoma (remember the ABCDEs of melanoma that we have already highlighted elsewhere).
A mirror comes in handy in examining the hidden parts of the body e.g. the back but you can as well ask a friend to offer you a helping hand.
Moderately Atypical Mole
If you have been reading around for some time, then you might have come across the term, “moderately atypical mole” and perhaps wondered what it really means. Well the terms “mild atypia”, “moderate atypia”, and “severe atypia” are commonly used by doctors to describe biopsy results for patients suffering from atypical moles. From these we can then have “moderately atypical mole”, “mildly atypical mole” and “severely atypical mole”.
Mildly atypical moles are usually not cancerous and are as well not a cause for concern. They usually don’t require to be removed but continuous examination is important in order to detect any suspicious changes that may arise.
A moderately atypical mole is on the other hand very likely to develop into malignant (cancerous) melanoma and has to be removed surgically. Most dermatologists agree that a moderately atypical mole should be removed in not more than 2 months from its diagnosis. A small area of the skin around the mole is also typically removed to ensure total removal of abnormal cells.
Severe Atypical Mole
A severe atypical mole is the most likely to develop into melanoma, a serious, aggressive type of skin cancer that is typically associated with abnormal moles.
Severe moles should thus be removed as soon as possible. This is usually done surgically under local aesthesia whereby the mole is shaved off and the remaining wound stitched.
The dermatologist will then arrange a regular in-office examination but you should as well keep monitoring your skin at home to check for any changes in the normal moles that are usually left behind.
If you have had a severe atypical mole it is also a great idea to protect yourself from direct sunlight by applying a sunscreen with SPF of at least 30. You should also stay away from the sun during its peak time (11 am – 3 pm).
Atypical Mole Removal
Dermatologists and pathologists usually rate an atypical mole under one of three categories, namely, mild, moderate and severe. Since most atypical nevi do not necessarily develop into melanoma, only moderately atypical moles and severe atypical moles are usually removed with the mildly atypical moles being spared (but watched closely for any changes as well as for occurrence of new atypical moles).
Atypical mole removal is a surgical procedure that involves cutting the mole off alongside an extra area of normal skin to ensure that no abnormal cells are left behind. Watch this video clip of the excision of an atypical mole – courtesy of U-tube.
Atypical Mole Biopsy Results
Biopsy (examination of cells removed from the affected area under a microscope) is normally done when investigating atypical moles whereby the pathologist examines the architecture (the arrangement of the cells in relation to one another) and cytology (the appearance of each individual cell) of atypical mole cells.
Atypical mole biopsy results are usually presented in three grading that we have already discussed above: mild, moderate and severe.
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