What Are Atypical Moles?

Atypical moles are moles that have an abnormal appearance. They can vary in color (many of them take on shades of brown, pink, or red), can have irregular borders, and tend to be asymmetrical in shape. Clinically, they can look like and resemble melanoma, which is a type of skin cancer. Atypical moles, however, are neither cancerous nor pre-cancerous moles, so you do not need to be alarmed if you have noted their presence on your body. Patients that have atypical moles can sometimes, but do not always, develop melanoma. Patients with many atypical moles do, however, have a greater risk of developing melanoma over their lifetime, so we encourage these patients to frequently examine their skin and come in regularly for their skin exams. If you’re interested in learning more about precancerous moles and how we can treat them, we recommend reaching out to the Certified Dermatology location that is most convenient for you and speaking with a member of our team to set up your initial appointment today.

Your Initial Appointment

Skin conditions can vary in a number of ways. The proper treatment will depend on a combination of the specific issues you’re facing and the unique characteristics of your skin. For this reason, we recommend coming in for an initial appointment so we can work with you to develop a treatment plan once we’ve decided upon the right course of action. The team here at Certified Dermatology is extensively experienced and operates in a comfortable, intimate office setting where you’ll feel comfortable and at home.

During your examination, we’ll take a close look at any moles or lesions you may have on your body. If we suspect a mole may be abnormal, we will most likely recommend removing the mole (or moles) and having a biopsy performed to ensure that you’re not dealing with any cancerous or precancerous cells. The process of removing a mole is very simple and can be done very quickly during your office visit.

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How Is a Mole Removed?

Shave removal is the easiest method by which we can remove dysplastic nevi. This process involves numbing the mole with an injectable local anesthetic before shaving the mole down until it is flat and flush with the surrounding skin. 

The mole tissue is then placed in a specimen jar and sent for evaluation by a  dermatopathologist, who will examine the mole and tell if the mole is healthy or not and if any further treatment is needed.

When the results return, we will determine, based on the report, what treatment is needed next. Atypical moles or dysplastic nevi are often given a “stage” or “degree” of atypical cells within that particular mole.

Mild Atypia

Mild atypia refers to the presence of very minor, low-grade changes within a mole. They often do not require much treatment, but we recommend that they be observed and watched for future changes.

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Moderate Atypia

Moles with moderate atypia are less common than moles with mild atypia and do not present any severe medical concern. Depending on some other factors in the biopsy report, moles with moderate atypia can sometimes be left alone and monitored clinically. 

Sometimes these moles need to be removed further, and a minor procedure will be performed to remove the mole completely. A minor excision will remove the mole, and stitches will be put in place to properly close the excision site.

Severe Atypia

Moles with severe atypia are more concerning. These moles will always be excised to ensure that no further abnormal cells are left behind. The tissues surrounding the mole will be carefully examined to ensure that it is nothing more than an atypical mole.

For patients that have many moles, or more importantly, many irregularly looking moles, remaining diligent in your skin health is essential. Frequent skin exams at home and regular visits to your dermatologist are very important for the early detection of abnormal moles.

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Examining Your Skin

When examining your own skin, we always try to stress to our patients to be on the lookout for any mole or growth that is new or changing in any way. Not all new growths or lesions that change are bad, but some are, and the earlier these are identified, the more effectively they can be treated. The “ugly duckling” rule is one method that should be applied when examining your skin: Look for anything that stands out differently from the rest of the growths or moles that you see on your skin. If you think you may be dealing with an atypical mole, we recommend visiting one of our locations for an informative appointment.

The ABCs of Dysplastic Nevi (Atypical Moles)


Most benign moles are symmetric, meaning that if you were to fold the mole in half onto itself, each side should match. Many atypical moles appear to be asymmetric and do not have a consistent shape.


The borders or edges of an atypical mole tend to be irregular and jagged when the mole is cancerous or abnormal. Many benign growths have very smooth borders and edges, which is why we recommend visiting us for a consultation to be sure.


Most benign moles are made up of one color (usually a  shade of brown). When a mole or growth appears to have many different colors in shades of brown and black, it could be a warning sign that something is wrong with that mole.


Most benign moles tend to be smaller than malignant ones. Malignant or abnormal moles are usually larger than the size of a pencil eraser. However, when detected early, they may be smaller than this size.


Most benign moles remain stable and unchanged over time. When a mole or growth begins to evolve or change, however, you should have it evaluated as soon as possible. Any change that occurs should be a warning sign to have the growth checked. Look for changes in size, color, elevation, texture, or other traits such as itching or bleeding.

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Keeping Yourself Healthy

Here are some essential tips that can help you keep your moles healthy:

  • Consistently utilize broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) at least 20 to 30 minutes before exposure to the sun.
  • Be sure to reapply your sunscreen every 60 to 90 minutes when you’re out in the sun.
  • Take care to avoid the sun’s peak hours, between 10 am and 2 pm.
  • Make sure to wear clothing that protects you from the sun.
  • Avoid sunburns.
  • Do not utilize indoor tanning beds.
  • Examine your skin once a month for new or changing spots.
  • Have a yearly skin examination to ensure your skin is in good health.
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