What is an Atypical Mole?

Atypical moles are not skin cancer. They are unusual moles that have either asymmetry, irregular borders, or color variation.

What are my risks?

When an atypical mole looks very unusual or severely atypical under the microscope, we often recommend removal of more tissue around the mole. This is called an excision. An excision is done to ensure that all the atypical cells are gone. People who have a lot of atypical moles have a higher risk of melanoma.

What is melanoma?

Malignant melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can be fatal if not caught early. Americans have a one in seventy chance of developing melanoma. The vast majority of these are treated successfully with skin cancer surgery.

What to look for in Atypical Moles and Melanoma

  • A: Asymmetry – if you fold the mole in half, does it look the same on both sides?
  • B: Borders – does it have jagged, irregular edges?
  • C: Color – does it have more than one color?
  • D: Diameter – is it bigger than 6 millimeters (the size of a pencil eraser)?
  • E: Evolving – is it changing over time?

What precautions can I take?

If you have atypical moles, you should have a bi-annual skin exam by a dermatologist.
Limit your exposure to the sun. Sun exposure, tanning beds, and a history of sunburns dramatically increase your chances of all types of skin cancer. More than 90% of skin cancer is caused by sun exposure.
Wear zinc sunscreen with at least zinc 6% and SPF30 every day. This ingredient will protect you from both UVA (aging rays) and UVB (burning rays) radiation.

Be concerned, but don’t worry excessively. Do your best to be sun smart and know your skin. With regular self-examination, professional skin exams, and common sense, any potentially worrisome lesions will be detected early

How can we protect our children?

The majority of our sun exposure occurs before age eighteen. If children use sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater throughout these years, they can reduce their skin cancer risk by 80%.

Infants under six months old should never be exposed to the sun. After age six months, put sunscreen with at least SPF 30 on children every morning.

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