You have a mole removed and the pathology report tells you that the mole is fine but ‘could have turned into a melanoma.’ This really doesn’t tell the whole story and can be a little frightening if you don’t understand.
An atypical mole:
- Is not a ‘normal-looking mole.’
- Is not a melanoma
- Causes concern for you
- May causes concern for your doctor
An atypical mole may be larger, darker, or have a greater range of colours than a simple mole. The border may also be irregular.
In other words, an atypical mole looks very similar to a melanoma.
A dermoscopy or examination of the skin using a dermoscope is very helpful in these cases. However, your doctor may still not be able to tell if a lesion is a melanoma or an atypical mole (dysplastic nevus) without a biopsy. Unfortunately, this kind of confusion can’t be avoided because regular screenings are key to detecting melanoma as early as possible.
The term atypical mole is used by doctors during a skin check, whilst the term dysplastic mole is used by pathologists.
Even a pathologist may have difficulty telling a melanoma from a dysplastic nevus. And just to be sure, they will often treat a ‘Severely dysplastic nevus’ as a melanoma.