Dysplastic nevus


A dysplastic nevus is a mole that exhibits distinct characteristics compared to the typical mole. It may display irregular borders, a variety of colors, and appear larger than other moles.

Although atypical moles are benign and not cancerous, having a considerable number of them elevates the risk of melanoma, a potentially life-threatening skin cancer. Moreover, over time, atypical moles can evolve and potentially develop into cancerous lesions.

To gain a clearer comprehension of this condition, let’s dissect the meaning of each term:

  • Dysplastic or Dysplasia: This term denotes the existence of atypical (abnormal) cells in tissue. Dysplastic tissue, while not cancerous in itself, possesses the potential to evolve into cancer.
  • Nevus: In medical terminology, this refers to a mole, a prevalent type of skin growth. The plural form is “nevi,” denoting multiple moles. The term “dysplastic nevi” may be used by your healthcare provider if you exhibit multiple atypical moles.

It is prevalent to have atypical moles, with experts estimating that approximately 1 in 10 Americans possesses at least one such mole.

The presence of atypical moles heightens the risk of melanoma, and the greater the number of atypical moles, the higher the risk of cancer. Individuals with 10 or more atypical moles are 12 times more likely to develop melanoma. However, it’s essential to note that the majority of people with atypical moles do not go on to develop melanoma. Experts estimate that one in four cases of melanoma originates from a dysplastic nevus or atypical mole.

Your doctor may use terms like “atypical mole,” “congenital nevus,” “Spitz nevus,” or “Clark’s nevi” to describe a dysplastic nevus.


 A dysplastic nevus might display some or all of the following characteristics:

  • A flat with a pebbly or slightly elevated surface.
  • A shape that deviates from regularity, typically not circular, displaying edges that are blurred or uneven.
  • Exceeding the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Exhibiting a spectrum of colors, encompassing shades such as pink, red, tan, brown, and black.

Atypical moles can manifest on any part of your body, with a higher frequency on your trunk. However, they may also appear on your head, scalp, neck, arms, or legs.


The precise reasons why certain individuals develop dysplastic nevi remain unclear. However, a blend of genetic factors (family history) and environmental factors such as exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light might contribute to this occurrence.

Risk factors

Atypical moles can impact individuals across various ages, genders, and skin tones.

While having dark skin does not provide protection from atypical moles or skin cancer, it does contribute to a reduced risk.

Individuals with the following risk factors are more prone to developing atypical moles:

  • Past instances of excessive sun exposure, sunburns, or an inability to tan.
  • Sensitivity to UV light (photosensitivity).
  • Family history of atypical moles, skin cancer, or melanoma.
  • Fair skin, freckles, light eyes, and hair