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Dysplastic Nevi - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


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Dysplastic nevus is an atypical mole whose appearance is different from that of common moles. Dysplastic nevi are generally larger than ordinary moles and have irregular and indistinct borders marked by melanocytic dysplasia. These are acquired melanocytic lesions of the skin that's clinical and histologic definitions are controversial and still evolving. Their color frequently is not uniform and ranges from pink to dark brown. These usually are flat, but parts may be raised above the skin surface. Dysplastic nevi are more likely than ordinary moles to develop into a type of skin cancer called melanoma. Patients may have one, several, or dozens of dysplastic nevi at the same time. They often occur on sun-protected areas such as buttocks, breasts, and scalp. Although no minimum diameter is defined for dysplastic nevi, but they usually tend to be larger than common nevi, often greater than 5 mm in diameter.

Dysplastic nevi are acquired and typically appear during puberty. Dysplastic nevi are not cancers, but many skin cancer experts believe these growths have more potential to turn into the melanoma type of skin cancer than normal moles. Because at times it is difficult to tell if a melanoma has begun to grow within a dysplastic nevus, it may be necessary to do a biopsy. Dysplastic nevi often are diagnosed on the basis of their clinical appearance. Skin biopsy and evaluation are the best tools for assessing whether the mole is benign or malignant. There is no known way to prevent dysplastic nevi. However, wherever possible, further risk factors for melanoma should be reduced and sun protection or avoidance is recommended.

Causes of Dysplastic nevi

Dysplastic nevi are acquired and typically appear during puberty. In a small number of families the tendency to grow these moles may be inherited. It is uncertain whether ultraviolet rays play a role, since they can be found in sun-protected areas. Melanoma sometimes runs in families. Having two or more close relatives who have had this disease is a risk factor. People whose immune system is weakened by certain cancers, by drugs given following organ transplantation, or by HIV are at increased risk of developing melanoma.

Common causes and risk factors of Dysplastic nevi:

  • A heredity problem.
  • Severe, Blistering Sunburns.
  • Xeroderma Pigmentosum.
  • Number and thickness of common nevi.
  • Weakened immune system.

Signs and Symptoms of Dysplastic nevi

Dysplastic nevi can appear anywhere on the body, but most frequently they are found on the back, chest, buttocks, breast and scalp. They are found both in sun-exposed as well as sun-protected areas. Sometimes they display an elevated darker portion in the center, with a flat, pale, fuzzy border, giving the appearance of a "fried egg." They usually are larger than ordinary nevi, averaging about 1 centimeter in size. Unlike common nevi, they are colored in varying shades of tan and brown.

Sign and symptoms may include the following :

  • A pricking or burning sensation.
  • Development of irregular or notched borders.
  • The lesion comes and goes in the case of dysplastic nevi.
  • Dry, rough to the touch and sensitive.
  • Moles are usually pink, tan, brown, or the same color as the skin.
  • The feeling of acute pain.

Treatment for Dysplastic nevi

Other than removal of abnormal moles, one may choose to have a mole removed for cosmetic reasons. Some may not like the mole because of its location, or because it may be irritated by clothing or jewelry. Removing all of these moles is neither practical nor recommended, nor does it entirely remove the risk for developing melanoma. Dysplastic moles with an unusual appearance or suspicious changes often are removed for microscopic evaluation.

Treatment may include:

  • Treatment of dysplastic nevi is done by destroying the abnormal cells. This is usually done by freezing the skin with liquid nitrogen at the doctor's office.
  • Radiation therapy is most common in these cases.
  • Dysplastic moles can also be removed by microscopic evaluation.
  • Other techniques include using a prescription cream on the abnormal skin.