Atypical moles: diagnosis and management.


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Abstract

Atypical moles are benign pigmented lesions. Although they are benign, they exhibit some of the clinical and histologic features of malignant melanoma. They are more common in fair-skinned individuals and in those with high sun exposure. Atypical moles are characterized by size of 6 mm or more at the greatest dimension, color variegation, border irregularity, and pebbled texture. They are associated with an increased risk of melanoma, warranting enhanced surveillance, especially in patients with more than 50 moles and a family history of melanoma. Because an individual lesion is unlikely to display malignant transformation, biopsy of all atypical moles is neither clinically beneficial nor cost-effective. The ABCDE (asymmetry, border irregularity, color unevenness, diameter of 6 mm or more, evolution) mnemonic is a valuable tool for clinicians and patients to identify lesions that could be melanoma. Also, according to the "ugly duckling" concept, benign moles tend to have a similar appearance, whereas an outlier with a different appearance is more likely to be undergoing malignant change. Atypical moles with changes suggestive of malignant melanoma should be biopsied, using an excisional method, if possible.

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