“Atypical Moles” Can grow to a deadly skin cancer “Melanoma”
Atypical moles are those that have an appearance that differs from "normal" moles and may be a cause for concern.
Since early stages of skin cancer can just look like a mole, it is safer to have any “weird looking” moles medically evaluated. Call us for an appointment to have your moles checked. During your medical visit Dr. Shafa will evaluate your suspicious mole with a hand held skin microscope called “Dermoscope”. During such a exam she might find criteria for a atypical mole that justifies a skin biopsy. A biopsy of an atypical lesion might be indicated to establish a diagnosis and determine the a plan for treatment. The skin biopsy and microscopic evaluation of such a mole may also reveal atypical cells as well.
What are atypical moles?
The darker flat or raised bumps on the skin so called “moles” has a broad spectrum from appearance to medical diagnosis. Simply on very left of the spectrum there are those benign common ordinary moles that look like a flat small round uniformed color, not changing that over years. Far on the right side of the spectrum are skin lesions that are asymmetric (A), irregular border(B), uneven colored (C) with larger Diameter (D) evaluating (E) over time that can be a melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. Now in between some moles clinically with naked eye or with dermoscope does not look like ordinary mole or melanoma. This group of moles are classified under atypical moles.
Common Moles -- -- -- -- - Atypical Moles -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Melanoma
Safe and benign-- -- -- - Behavior unknown -- -- -- -- -- -- deadly skin cancer
How does an Atypical Mole look like?
An atypical mole, also called “dysplastic nevus,” is a mole whose appearance is different from that of a common mole. Atypical moles can look flat or slightly raised, can have irregular border and are generally larger in size (6-12 millimeters) than ordinary moles. Their color is often times not uniform and varies from tan to dark brown.
Is an Atypical mole early melanoma?
Not yet but the risk of a single atypical mole to become cancerous is 1/100 compare to an ordinary mole to become cancerous 1/3000.
People who have atypical moles are at increased risk of developing melanoma in a mole or elsewhere on the body. The higher the number of these moles someone has, the higher the risk. Those who have 10 or more atypical moles have 12 times the risk of developing melanoma compared with the general population.
Is having atypical moles genetic?
Yes. Heredity appears to play a part in the formation of atypical moles. They tend to run in families, especially in Caucasians; about 2 to 8 percent of Caucasians have these moles.
How often should my moles be examined?
Existence of atypical moles and family history for melanoma increases the risk of having such a skin cancer. Dr Shafa recommends that you have your entire skin examined carefully with a dermoscope twice a year if you have high number of atypical moles. Remember more importance is that you are educated about look of a suspicious mole and come in for evaluation with a dermoscope whenever you find a lesion on your skin that does not look right to you.
When should I be concerned about a mole?
If you have a mole that looks different than a typical mole, it is changing, it has a ‘funny look” or you’re concerned and your gut feeling says something is wrong, just give us a call and let us check it under dermoscope or perform a few minutes long procedure "a skin biopsy". That is how we make sure that it is an early skin cancer.
Dysplastic nevi are not uncommon atypical moles that look and act different than a common benign mole. These types of moles are usually hereditary and may develop into melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer.
Atypical Mole Syndrome ( AMS)
Individuals with AMS, medically called Dysplastic Nevus syndrome (DNS), are people with more than 50 moles, with three or more moles atypical in shape, size, structure or color. People with AMS are at higher risk ( 7 to 10 fold) of developing melanoma.
Who is at the highest risk for developing melanoma?
1) The more atypical moles, the higher risk
2) Being from melanoma-prone families
3) Increased lifetime sun exposure
What should I do if I find a suspicious mole?
If you are suspicious of any mole, do not hesitate to make an appointment with Dr. Shafa for an evaluation. A mole biopsy is a very simple and pain free procedure that takes no more than a few minutes. It is always worth it to be on the safe side.
What is the chance of my mole turning into skin cancer?
Although an individual mole is unlikely to become malignant, the single best predictor of risk for development of melanoma is the total number of moles.
Should I have my moles removed to prevent complications?
No. Moles are extremely common and numerous, therefore, preventative removal of moles is not justifiable, however; a mole should be biopsied and examined microscopically if it has any of the characteristics of concern (ABCDE of melanoma).
Can my suspicious mole simply be shaved off for a biopsy?
No. The specimen must be deep enough for accurate microscopic diagnosis and should contain the entire lesion if possible, especially if the concern for malignancy is high. However, wide primary excision is not needed initially, even for highly abnormal-appearing lesions, because many such lesions are not cancerous.
Does cutting through skin cancer increase the risk of cancer spreading?
No. A skin biopsy, even one that involves cutting through skin cancer, does not increase the likelihood of the cancer spreading (metastasis). Dr. Shafa uses her expertise during mole removal to avoid extensive surgery for a skin lesion, but at the same time ensures that she has removed a sufficient amount of tissue for efficient microscopic evaluation of the entire mole. Of course, Dr. Shafa’s artistic touch also ensures the best cosmetic outcome as well.