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Atypical Mole

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What do I need to know about an atypical mole?

An atypical mole, or dysplastic nevus, is a mole that usually has an abnormal shape, size, or color. Atypical moles can develop on skin that is protected from the sun and skin that is exposed to sunlight. Your risk is increased if you have family members with atypical moles. Most atypical moles do not develop into skin cancer. Your risk for skin cancer is higher if you have many atypical moles.

What are the signs and symptoms of an atypical mole?

  • Large and flat
  • Shape that is lopsided, not even, or not equal
  • Mixture of pink, tan, or brown shades within the mole
  • Flat around the outside of the mole with a darker, raised center
  • Black or much darker than other moles nearby

How is an atypical mole diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your mole. Tell him if you have noticed any growth or changes to your mole. He may ask about your and your family's medical history. A skin biopsy may be done to check for abnormal or cancerous cells. A small sample of the mole may be taken or the entire mole may be removed.

How should I monitor my atypical mole?

  • Get regular skin checks by a dermatologist. He may take full body photos to monitor your moles.
  • Check your skin once a month. Your dermatologist will show you how to do a self-exam of your moles.

What do I need to know about skin cancer prevention?

  • Avoid sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm. The sun is most intense during the middle of the day.
  • Sit in the shade if you are outside. Sit under an umbrella or sun shelter.
  • Do not use tanning beds. Tanning beds are not safer than a tan directly from the sun.
  • Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30, 20 minutes before you go outside. Use sunscreen on cloudy days as well. Apply sunscreen at least every 2 hours and after you swim or sweat. Apply to your ears, scalp, back of your hands, and the tops of your feet. These areas are easily forgotten. Use a lip balm that contains at least SPF 30.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts. Wear a hat with a wide brim all the way around. The wide brim shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. Wear large-framed sunglasses to protect your eyes.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You see a new mole that does not look like your other moles.
  • You have a mole that changes in height, shape, or texture.
  • You have a mole that changes color.
  • You have a mole that starts to itch, bleed, or ooze fluid.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.