Naples Dermatology PA​


4085 Tamiami Trail North Suite B203, Naples. FL, 34103 ​​

Dr. Scott A. Ross MD

Board Certified Dermatologist

Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology​​


Atypical or Abnormal Moles (Nevi)  are unusual-looking benign (noncancerous) moles, also known as dysplastic nevi (the plural of “nevus,” or mole). Atypical moles may resemble melanoma, and people who have them may be at increased risk of developing melanoma in a mole or elsewhere on the body. The higher the number of these moles someone has, the higher the risk. 

Heredity appears to play a part in the formation of atypical moles. They tend to run in families, especially in Caucasians - about 5% of Caucasians have them. Those who have atypical moles plus a family history of melanoma (two or more close blood relatives with the disease) have a very high risk of developing melanoma. People who have atypical moles, but no family history of melanoma, are also at higher risk of developing melanoma compared with the general population. So are those with 50 or more normal moles. All of these high-risk individuals should practice rigorous daily sun protection, perform a monthly skin self-examination head to toe and seek regular professional skin exams.

How to spot an Atypical Mole

NORMAL MOLES are common small brown spots or growths on the skin that appear in the first few decades of life in almost everyone. They can be either flat or elevated and are generally round and regularly shaped. Many are induced by sun exposure.

MELANOMA, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, most often appears as an asymmetrical, irregularly bordered, multicolored or tan/brown spot or growth that continues to increase in size over time. It may begin as a flat spot and become more elevated. In rare instances, it may be amelanotic, meaning it does not have any of the skin pigment (melanin) that typically turns a mole or melanoma brown, black or other dark colors. In these cases, it may be pink, red, or appear normal in color.

Physicians can often identify an atypical mole by the same classic “ABCDE” characteristics used to identify a possible melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: Unlike common moles, atypical moles are often asymmetrical: A line drawn through the middle would not create matching halves.
  • Border: While common moles usually have regular, sharp, well-defined borders, the borders of atypical moles tend to be irregular and/or fuzzy.
  • Color: Common moles are most often uniformly tan, brown or flesh-colored, but atypical moles have varied, irregular color with subtle, haphazard areas of tan, brown, dark brown, red, blue or black.
  • Diameter: Atypical moles are generally larger than 6 mm (¼ inch), the size of a pencil eraser, but may be smaller.
  • Evolution: Enlargement of or any other notable change/Evolution in a previously stable mole, or the appearance of a new mole after age 40, should raise suspicion.

Other factors besides the ABCDEs may also indicate an atypical mole:

  • Surface: Central portion often is raised, whereas the peripheral portions are usually flat, sometimes with tiny “pebbly” elevations.
  • Varying Appearance: Atypical moles can be greatly varied, often looking different from one another.