Dysplastic Nevi or Just a Mole?

Moles are common colored spots on the skin caused by an increase in the melanin, or the protein in the cell that causes darker coloration. Therefore, moles consist of melanocytes.

Moles can be predetermined genetically and can be acquired throughout early life up to around one’s early thirties. Most people have around 40 or so moles on the skin generally on exposed parts of the body. They can range in color from light tan to dark brown. Excessive ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds can increase the not only the number of moles, but also dysplastic nevi.

A dysplastic nevi is a mole that is not “typical.” Also referred to as atypical moles, these moles can be larger and more densely colored. These moles are acquired and look different from other moles.

Typical common moles have a symmetrical shape. They are the same from one side to the other as far as size and color. They have a smooth border and the color is consistent throughout the mole. The diameter is less than the size of a pencil eraser and they are not elevated. This is generally referred to as the ABCDE of determining if moles can be problematic. A refers to asymmetry, B for border, C for color, D for diameter and E for elevation or evolving. If a mole has changed size or color, it needs to be examined.

A dysplastic nevi can be larger than a pencil eraser, slightly or greatly elevated and may be shaped irregularly. Anyone who has a mole that looks different from the others in any way should have it looked at by a dermatologist. The doctor will examine it closely and determine if it should be biopsied. This process studies a sample of the cells microscopically to determine if cancerous or precancerous cells may be present. People who have a family history of melanoma are at higher risk for it.

It is important to examine your skin while drying yourself after a shower and keeping an eye out for any changes or new moles. Be sure to include the bottom of your feet and around the toenails. Darker skinned people may have less incidence of skin cancer but are not immune.

Regular annual dermatology examinations and use of sunscreen is the best defense against skin cancer and finding it early. Call us for a consultation and examination today.

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