New York patients ask, “What are Atypical Moles?”

Moles are common and most everyone has at least one mole.

A common mole can appear:

  • Brown or tan, black, reddish, pink or flesh-toned
  • Rounded
  • Flat or somewhat raised
  • Hairy

One person can have a number of moles that all look slightly different. These moles may be found anywhere on the skin, including between the fingers and toes, under the nails, and on the scalp.

Moles are caused when the cells that give skin its pigment or color, melanocytes, grow together. The clumps can appear as bumps or spots.

Atypical moles are characterized as atypical because they:

  • Are larger than a pencil eraser
  • Are not rounded
  • Contain more than 2 colors

Like common moles, atypical moles can appear anywhere on the body but are most frequently found on the trunk. They rarely show up on the face.

Atypical moles can be a cause for concern. While true atypical moles are not cancerous, they can resemble melanoma skin cancers.

Cancerous moles may have one, some or all of the features listed below:

  • Asymmetry – If you were to look at each half of the mole, one side would look different from the other side.
  • Borders – Are uneven or poorly-defined
  • Diameter  Generally, has expanded in size to more than one-fourth of an inch around
  • Evolving – Changes in size, shape, color, and depth, and may suddenly feel tender, burn, itch, ooze or bleed

Most people with common moles develop 10 to 40 of these spots over time. These moles are also more common among lighter-skinned people. However, if more than 50 moles have been acquired over time you are generally at greater risk of developing melanoma. It only takes four atypical moles to be considered at increased risk of developing melanoma.

You may also be at greater risk of developing melanoma should a blood relative have this type of cancer. While skin cancer is associated with serious sunburns, especially sun damage suffered before the age of 18, some types of atypical moles are associated with a genetic form of melanoma.

It is critical that you schedule an appointment with Dr. Ron Shelton should you have any suspicious spots. Better yet, Dr. Shelton and his team can provide regular professional skin screenings.

Don’t wait until a spot changes to schedule a screening, especially should you be at greater risk due to the number of common and atypical moles and family history. Dr. Shelton can discuss with you more about atypical moles and preventive measures from his New York office, now located in Midtown Manhattan.

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