Ever had an unusual-looking mole? It might have been an atypical nevus, a mole that’s in-between cancerous and non-cancerous. Art Saavedra, MD, dermatologist, explains the five specific patterns doctors look for in a mole during an exam. This condition is monitored and surgically removed when needed.
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Sometimes moles are not cancerous, but they don’t look normal on clinical exam. They’re not completely benign, but they’re not cancer. They’re in a stage somewhere in between. That in-between stage is called atypical nevus.
An atypical nevus can be asymptomatic, but in a clinical exam, you see five specific patterns that are important to discuss. We call them the A, B, C, D, and E clinical exam findings.
A is for asymmetry. The mole isn’t perfectly round. You can’t draw a line in between it and reflect on itself.
B is for border. The border is irregular. It’s not a smooth curve, but more like a jigsaw puzzle.
C for color. Instead of it being one single color, it can be one, two, three, or four shades of brown or black.
D for diameter. Generally, an atypical nevus will be bigger than six millimeters or the size of a pencil eraser.
And lastly, E is evolution. Any mole that quickly changes, grows, itches, or bleeds.
Atypical nevi are treated in many ways. Sometimes we watch them clinically, and when we’re worried, we remove them with surgery.
In general, any patient who has a strong family history of melanoma and has a quickly changing mole or a new mole that they have not seen before, are reasons for us to examine in the clinic. However, in general, an atypical nevus or melanoma can happen in anyone without a family history of melanoma. So, if the patient is concerned, we want to see the patient.