NORMAL MOLES are common small brown spots or growths on the skin that appear in the first few decades of life in almost everyone. They can be either flat or elevated and are generally round and regularly shaped. Many are caused by sun exposure.
MELANOMA, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, most often appears as an asymmetrical, irregularly bordered, multicolored or tan/brown spot or growth that continues to increase in size over time. It may begin as a flat spot and become more elevated. In rare instances, it may not be pigmented.
“Classic" Atypical Mole Syndrome
Some people are so affected by both normal and atypical moles that they are classified as having atypical mole syndrome. They are at exceptionally high risk of developing melanoma. People with “classic” atypical mole syndrome have the following three characteristics:
- 100 or more moles
- One or more moles 8 mm (1/3 inch) or larger in diameter
- One or more moles which are atypical.
At exceptionally high risk of developing melanoma are those with familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome (FAMMM). These individuals not only have atypical mole syndrome, but also have one or more first or second-degree relatives with melanoma. While atypical moles often arise in childhood, they can appear at any time of life in people with FAMMM.