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  • Dysplastic Nevus

    Dysplastic nevus (or Clark’s nevus) is a benign, rare, atypical mole. The term “atypical” refers to a mole that is precancerous.

    Dysplastic nevus is larger than a normal mole and possesses deformed borders that are hazy and vary in color from tan, to brown or pink. These moles can appear anywhere on the skin, especially on the sun exposed surfaces of the back, face, neck, and forearms.

    Dysplastic nevus can appear flat, raised, or bumpy. Its appearance is very similar to Melanoma, a form of skin cancer that dysplastic nevus can develop into if not treated promptly and correctly.

    Risk Factors

    Number of Moles: Often having 100 or more moles
    Family History: 10-15% patients develop dysplastic nevus due to heredity.
    Immune System: Due to organ transplants and medication that weakens an individual’s immune system
    Severe Sunburns
    Fair Skin
    Xeroderma Pigmentosum: A rare, heredity skin disease caused by a defect in the enzyme that normally repairs ultra-violet damaged DNA.
    Age: Dysplastic nevus tends to appear more and more as you age. The elderly are most at risk of developing cancerous skin anomalies because of dysplastic nevus.


    The most common technique to remembering the signs and symptoms of dysplastic nevus is the acronym ABCDE:

    Asymmetrical skin lesion
    Border of mole is irregular
    Color varies from brown, to tan or pink. Cracking, bleeding, and itching can also occur.
    Diameter of mole is greater than 6mm causing pain and sensitivity
    Evolution of mole is a sign of malignancy


    People with dysplastic nevi are more likely to develop one or more melanomas. Precancerous dysplastic nevus is not life threatening.


    If dysplastic nevus runs in your family, you should have annual skin exams. Self-examination is also effective. Taking progressive photographs will help a skin care physician or doctor observe the mole’s evolution. Everyone should wear quality sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or more. The SPF number represents the amount of minutes the sunscreen will last.

    Diagnosis and Staging

    When an atypical mole has been identified, a biopsy is performed. Some doctors consider the mole to be abnormal just by looking at it, but most of the time a biopsy is required. Frequent doctor visits after the biopsy are advised. In the event of cancer development, these frequent visits will help ensure early detection.


    Once a patient is diagnosed, the next step is to remove the abnormal mole. This may leave a scar. If a patient has several nevi, the removal of every mole is not recommended, nor is it practical. However, if these mole are not treated promptly or observed closely, they are likely to develop into melanoma (a form of skin cancer).

    To treat dysplastic nevus, the following strategies may be employed:

    Cryotherapy: This therapy involves freezing the skin with liquid nitrogen, which destroys the abnormal cells that compose the nevi.
    Drug Therapy: Prescription creams may be prescribed to kill or stunt the growth of cells in and around the nevi.
    Radiation Therapy: This therapy involves the aiming a beam of ionizing radiation at the abnormal mole. The ionizing radiation kills abnormal cells.