Dysplastic nevi are abnormal “moles.” These are lesions made of pigment cells (melanocytes) in the skin that are atypical. Dysplastic nevi are often large, irregularly shaped, and/or unevenly pigmented clinically. These same clinical features can be seen in melanoma, therefore, these nevi are often biopsied.
Although they are benign (non-cancerous) lesions, dysplastic nevi are considered a marker of an increased risk of melanoma. Some studies indicate that a person with dysplastic nevi may have a 10 to 20 percent higher risk of developing melanoma in their lifetime.
Heredity appears to play a role in the development of dysplastic nevi and in melanoma risk. Patients with abnormal moles are often advised to perform monthly self-skin exams, have regular professional skin exams in a dermatology office, and sun protect well.