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A melanocytic nevus also known as nevocytic or nevus-cell nevus and commonly as a mole.

Dysplastic Nevi (Atypical Moles)

Dysplastic nevi are atypical moles that may look similar to melanoma, but are not necessarily cancerous. Regular monitoring and biopsy may be necessary, as they carry a higher risk of developing into skin cancer. 

Dysplastic Nevi (Atypical Moles)

The myriad of moles and birthmarks on human skin often tells stories of genetic inheritance, sun exposure, or simply the passage of time. However, among these, some stand out due to their unique appearance: dysplastic nevi. Not all moles are created equal, and understanding the particular nature of dysplastic nevi is crucial for ensuring skin health.

What are Dysplastic Nevi?

Dysplastic nevi, commonly known as atypical moles, are not your typical round, brown spots. They are characterized by their irregular borders, uneven color distribution, and larger size, often greater than 6mm in diameter. While most moles are symmetrical, dysplastic nevi tend to be asymmetric. They can appear anywhere on the body but are more common in sun-exposed areas.

How do they differ from regular moles?


  1. Appearance: They often have a mix of colors, including tan, brown, red, and pink. Their shape can be irregular, with blurred or indistinct borders.

  2. Texture and Elevation: Some dysplastic nevi can be slightly scaly, and they might be raised in the center.

  3. Size: They are often larger than the size of a pencil eraser but can also be smaller.


Dermatologist's Role in Assessment and Management


  1. Evaluation: Dermatologists employ tools such as dermoscopes to closely inspect atypical moles, gauging their potential for malignancy.

  2. Biopsies: If there's a suspicion, a dermatologist may take a biopsy. This involves removing a section or the entirety of the mole and sending it for laboratory testing.

  3. Monitoring: Even if a dysplastic nevus isn't immediately concerning, dermatologists might photograph it to monitor any changes over time.

  4. Removal: Depending on the biopsy results or the degree of atypia, a dermatologist may recommend complete removal of the mole as a precautionary measure.


Dysplastic Nevi and Melanoma: The Connection

While dysplastic nevi are benign, their presence indicates a higher risk of developing melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. Individuals with multiple atypical moles are at an elevated risk. However, it's essential to note that most dysplastic nevi do not transform into melanoma.

Prevention and Regular Check-ups

Avoiding excessive sun exposure, using sunscreens, and wearing protective clothing are crucial preventive steps. Given the potential risks associated with dysplastic nevi, routine dermatological assessments are vital.


Dysplastic nevi, with their unique appearance and characteristics, demand careful observation and often professional evaluation. While they in themselves are not cancerous, their presence points to an increased risk of melanoma. Regular check-ups with a dermatologist can provide the necessary guidance, ensuring that these atypical moles are benign and remain so. By understanding and respecting these irregularities in our skin, individuals can take control of their skin health and live without undue worry.


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