Normal Moles vs. Atypical Moles

When a person begins educating him or herself about melanoma, some of the first relevant information they’ll come across will be on moles. They’re very important, as 90% of all melanomas begin on the skin and pretty much everyone has them.

Although you’ve surely seen them countless times, you may not be aware that there are two types: normal moles, and atypical moles. (Officially, dysplastic nevi).

Atypical moles have a much greater chance to develop into melanoma than do normal moles. The odds are about 1 in 100 with the former; yet fewer than 1 in 3,000 with the latter. Those who have an atypical mole(s) carry a stronger risk of melanoma. Incidentally, the appearance of hair on any mole is medically irrelevant. It carries no weight with regard to an increased risk of skin cancer.

No one should ever try to tell the two apart without a biopsy; as even a dermatologist cannot be certain without one. However, they do have some distinguishing characteristics that (in general) helps to tell them apart.

For instance, normal moles maintain the same color (most often brown), are round, oval, and sometimes domed in shape. They have well-defined borders and are less than a quarter-inch wide.

These are two examples of normal moles, both raised and flat:

 

 

 

 

Atypical moles are wider than a quarter-inch and may be multi-colored (brown or pink). They have uneven borders and an irregular shape. Raised dysplastic nevi display a “fried egg” look.

These are two examples of atypical moles, both raised and flat:

 

 

 

 

One thing they both do have in common is that their surface areas are usually smooth or cauliflower in texture.

Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome

Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome is a disorder that is passed along through our genes. If any close relatives (immediate family but also including grandparents, uncles and aunts) have or have had melanoma and if a large number of atypical moles are present, there’s a high risk of developing the disease.

While monthly self-examination is important for every person of either gender, all races and skin tones, it’s even more vital to those with Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome.

These is an example of Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome:

 

 

 

*Additional source articles: Cancer.gov, Emedicine.medscape.com

To visit our websites, please click:  skincheck.org and/or melanomaeducation.net

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

 

 

 

 

 

In-Situ Melanoma

In-Situ (In place) Melanoma is also known as Stage 0 Melanoma and Hutchinson’s melanotic freckle. The latter is in honor of Sir John Hutchinson, who provided its inaugural description in the late 19th century.

While our fervent goal is to continually help prevent people from developing melanoma, if you are diagnosed with it, this is the type you’d prefer. As with burns (1st, 2nd, 3rd degree) and golf scores, with melanoma the lower number you have the better.

What are In-Situ Melanomas?

In-Situ are radial melanomas that stay within the skin’s thin top layer. Unlike their far more dangerous cousins, they don’t penetrate the epidermis and spread throughout the body. They don’t move. Hence, in place.

They’re also very easy to see, and have nearly a 100% cure rate. Typically, a doctor simply removes them right in his or her office. And that’s that.

These are two examples of In-Situ Melanomas:

 

 

 

 

Lentigo Maligna and Lentigo Maligna Melanoma

Lentigo Maligna is a very slow-growing (up to 20 years) In-Situ melanoma. It develops most often in older people, and within those whose vocations require a significant amount of time spent outdoors. As its primary cause is sun exposure, “Lentigos” usually occur on the areas of skin that are most prone to be impacted by the sun’s harmful UV rays. These include- but are certainly not limited to -the hands, neck and face.

Of all the In-Situ varieties, Lentigo Maligna is the least likely to convert to an aggressive, potentially lethal skin cancer. If it does however, it becomes Lentigo Maligna Melanoma. If Lentigos are allowed to reach this invasive melanoma stage, the matter grows much more serious.

Unlike the aforementioned Lentigo Maligna, Lentigo Maligna Melanoma is not a simple out-patient procedure. It requires surgery during which the surgeon will remove the affected skin entirely; along with a portion of the healthy skin that surrounds it. How it’s treated is based on what the case’s pathologist determines.

From left to right the pictures are examples of Lentigo, Lentigo Maligna and Lentigo Maligna Melanoma:

 

 

 

 

While we may sound like a broken record at times, these, along with so many other skin cancer and sun skin damage issues, can be avoided merely by practicing sun-safety and monthly self-examination. Please, do it for your own sake; and for the sake of those who care about you.

Thank you.

* Additional sources: Aimatmelanoma.org, emedicine.medscape.com, Dermnetnz.org (New Zealand)

To visit our websites, please click:  skincheck.org and/or melanomaeducation.net

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma