Atypical Nevi (Skin Moles)

ATYPICAL NEVUS (Abnormal Skin Mole)

Skin moles (nevi) appear as brown or pinkish marks on the skin. They may be smooth or raised. They may be present from birth or develop later. Most nevi are benign and stay that way throughout your life. However, atypical nevi have one or more features that indicate they may be the site of melanoma skin cancer. Melanoma has a very high survival rate when caught early and a very low survival rate once it has spread. So, it’s a good idea to be on the safe side when it comes to mole assessments.

Prevention and Early Detection

There are three major ways you can help reduce your risk. First, perform regular skin self exams using a mirror to check your entire body. Note the location, size, and other characteristics of each mole on a skin chart. Next, be sure to use adequate sun protection and don’t use tanning beds. Finally, have your dermatologist check any moles that have one or more of the following signs of being atypical:

  • Moles should not be Asymmetrical (the right/left and top/bottom halves of the mole should match.)
  • The Borders should be smooth and not irregular (scalloped or jagged)
  • Nevi should be the same brown or pinkish Color all the way across and should not be black, blue, red, or white
  • The mole should be no larger in Diameter than a pencil eraser
  • Skin moles should not be Expanding over time


Any moles that are moderately or severely atypical should be removed surgically. This is a minor outpatient procedure performed using local anesthetic. You will have a small scar about the size of the original mole.

Additional Information

There is some evidence that if you have many moles that are all atypical in the same way, these are “the norm for you” and aren’t necessarily a sign of potential malignancy. So, show a dermatologist all your moles to determine whether any of them vary significantly from the others.