Skin Cancer | Atypical Moles

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What are atypical moles?

Atypical moles are skin growths that are usually bigger than 6 mm wide (about the size of a pencil eraser). They have an irregular shape and borders that are not well defined and that can fade into the skin. Atypical moles can be more than 2 different colors (often different shades of brown).

Although atypical moles can sometimes look like a type of skin cancer called melanoma, they are benign (not cancerous).

Should I worry if I have an atypical mole?

People who have a lot of atypical moles have a higher risk of developing melanoma, especially if they also have family members who have had melanoma.

An atypical mole can become cancerous. If you have an atypical mole, have your doctor examine it. He or she may remove the mole or have it checked for melanoma or other types of skin cancer. Most atypical moles do not need to be removed.

What can I do to protect myself?

Protect your skin from the sun. If you are going to spend time outdoors, plan to stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun is strongest. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Use sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher, and reapply it every 2 hours. You can also wear protective clothing (for example, long sleeves and long pants). Never use a tanning bed.

Watch your skin for new moles or any changes in your moles. If you have a mole that bleeds or itches, tell your doctor right away. Also tell your doctor if a mole changes in size, shape or color, or if becomes scaly or crusty.

See your doctor regularly for skin checks. Your doctor should examine your skin at least once a year.

Source

Atypical Moles by Peggy R. Cyr, MD (American Family Physician September 15, 2008, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20080915/735.html)

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 05/14
Created: 10/09

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