Are Atypical Moles Cancer?
Atypical moles appear unusual and are typically benign (non-cancerous). They are also called dysplastic nevi (the plural of “nevus,” or mole).
These moles may resemble melanoma, and individuals who have them are more susceptible to developing melanoma in a mole or another location on the body.
The number of moles a person has is proportional to their risk for melanoma development. People who have ten or more moles are 12 times more at-risk for melanoma development in comparison to the general population.
Genetics seem to play a role in the development of atypical moles. The formation of these moles tends to run in families, especially in Caucasians. Around two to eight percent of Caucasians have atypical moles.
People who have atypical moles along with a family history of melanoma (two or more close relatives with the condition) have a significantly high risk of melanoma development.
Individuals with atypical moles, but no family history of melanoma, are also at-risk for developing the disease in comparison to the population at large. People with 5o or more normal moles are also at a higher risk of developing melanomas.
These people, who are at high risk for developing melanoma, should regularly practice daily sun protection, conduct a monthly head-to-toe self-exam and seek routine clinical skin examinations.
Some individuals have such numerous normal and atypical moles that they are categorized as having atypical mole syndrome. People who have the “classic” atypical mole syndrome have the following three attributes:
- 100 or more moles
- One or more moles one-third of an inch (8 mm) or larger in diameter
- One or more atypical moles
People with familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome (FAMMM) are at an even higher risk of melanoma development. These individuals have atypical mole syndrome as well as one or more first- or second-degree relatives who have melanoma.
Atypical moles usually develop in childhood. However, in people with FAMMM, they can develop at any time in their lives.
Atypical Moles Treatment
A patient may require a biopsy of one or more moles if their physician diagnoses their moles as atypical, or if new moles develop after the age of 40. In this procedure, the doctor will remove all or part of the mole and examine it under a microscope.
In fact, certain doctors believe that almost all atypical moles present the risk of developing into melanoma and should be entirely excised. Yet other doctors believe that only those moles that pose a high risk of developing into a melanoma should be removed.
Regardless, patients who have atypical moles should focus on routine monitoring. This way, if an atypical mole turns into a melanoma, it can be diagnosed and treated promptly.
What to do if You Have Atypical Moles?
In case a doctor diagnoses a person with atypical moles, skin specialists advise them to:
- Document a full family history of unusual moles, melanomas and other cancers, and discuss with their doctor during the consultation.
- Undergo regular complete skin exams at intervals recommended by the doctors as well as advise the same to family members.
- Perform regular self-exams of the skin to supplement medical checkups
- Discuss with the physician about the possibility of having a set of full-body images taken, especially if family members have atypical moles, multiple moles, or have been detected with melanoma. In this manner, change can be spotted more readily.
- Ask the doctor to check any unusual or changing growths on the skin promptly.
- Check if the doctor recommends an eye exam as moles and melanomas can also develop in the eyes.
For more information on procedures and treatments offered at Texas Surgical Dermatology PA please call 832.663.6566 or click here to contact our dermatologists. Helping patients in Houston, The Woodlands, Springs, Katy and other surrounding areas of Texas.