Moles: Who gets and types
Almost every adult has a few moles. Most adults have a type of mole called a common mole.
There are other types of moles. Some types increase a person’s risk for getting melanoma, a type of skin cancer. These moles are described below.
Atypical mole (dysplastic)
This type of mole can look like melanoma. It is not melanoma. But you have a higher risk of getting melanoma if you have:
- 4 or more atypical moles.
- Already had a melanoma.
- A first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child ) who had melanoma.
Your dermatologist may call an atypical mole a dysplastic (dis-plas-tic) nevus. Atypical moles are often:
- Larger than an eraser on the end of a pencil.
- Have an odd shape (not round).
- Show more than 1 color — mixes of tan, brown, red, and pink.
Atypical moles can appear anywhere on the body. They often appear on the trunk. And they may appear on the scalp, head, and neck. Atypical moles rarely appear on the face.
Some people who have many atypical moles have a medical condition called familial atypical multiple mole-melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome. People with FAMMM syndrome have:
- Many moles — more than 50.
- Some moles that are atypical.
- A blood relative who has (or had) melanoma.
Nevus is the medical term for mole. When your dermatologist is talking about 2 or more moles, your dermatologist may say nevi.
Your dermatologist may call your mole a nevus.
When a person is born with a mole, the mole is called a congenital mole. Roughly, 1 out of 100 people is born with a mole. These moles vary in size from small to giant. Having giant congenital moles increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma.
This mole often looks like melanoma. It can so closely resemble melanoma that a dermatologist cannot tell by looking at it. That’s because this mole is often is pink, raised, and dome-shaped. It also can have different colors in it such as red, black, and brown. The mole may bleed. It can have an opening that oozes.
Most Spitz nevi appear on the skin during the first 20 years of life. Spitz nevi also develop in adults.
Acquired mole (50 to 100 or more)
When a mole appears on the skin after a person is born, it is called an acquired mole. Most people who have light skin have about 10 to 40 of these moles. These moles also are called common moles.
If a person has 50 or more of these moles, the person has a higher risk for getting melanoma.
Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.