Information about the appearance (including photos) and importance of atypical (dysplastic) moles
Also known as
A dysplastic naevus (mole) is a common but harmless odd-looking spot. This type of mole often has visible features that also appear in melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer. It’s sometimes very difficult for a doctor to know if a spot is a dysplastic mole or a melanoma when examining it, even with a dermoscope to magnify it. This means that dysplastic moles often have to be biopsied so that a correct microscopic diagnosis can be made. Even though a dysplastic mole looks suspicious on examination by your skin cancer doctor, there are no melanoma changes when it's examined microscopically.
We used to think that dysplastic moles would eventually turn into melanoma if untreated. The result was that people used to have lots of odd-looking moles removed as a “precaution”. We now know that it's unusual for any longstanding pre-existing mole to later develop into a melanoma. Having lots of dysplstic moles removed doesn’t reduce the risk of later developing a melanoma.
The treatment for a dysplastic mole is surgical removal, or excison. In most cases, the mole has already been removed. Sometimes when a dysplastic naevus is diagnosed, your doctor will decide to re-excise more widely around the original spot. Research has shown that this is rarely necessary. A recent study has shown that over many years of follow-up, narrowly-excised dysplastic moles did not re-grow as melanomas.
People with many dysplastic moles have an above-average risk of developing melanoma in future. For this reason, if you’ve ever had a dysplastic mole, you should consider having a full body skin cancer check every year in future.
If you have a single or small number of suspect spots, they can be examined by our doctor during a mole check appointment.