Dyplastic Nevus

There’s still a lot of summer left; in fact, the hot weather is making the beach and pool look really good. But the accumulated sun exposure, as I’m certain you’ve heard, puts us at risk for skin cancer, and precancrous lesions. How do you know if a freckle is something to worry about? Many of us, like Buffy Schneit, don’t even think about it. “Most people spend their summer sin the sun so you don’t think anything is going to happen to you.” Buffy has been a sun lover for her entire life and has never thought about getting her skin checked, until she went to a free screening. “They said lets check this one freckle and I said ok and they scarped this one freckle, I didn’t think anything again and when they went back to the results. They said, oh, you have a dysplastic nevus. It was very scary.” Scary--because dysplastic nevus, which is an unusual mole, can, if unchecked, become cancerous.

“It is atypical, being brown or large growing quickly over the period of three months, sometimes having different colors like red or blue or even white, so a freckle that has a hallow of white around it can actually be a dysplastic nevus, it means your body is attacking it and trying to get rid of it so it is something bad. So dysplastic nevus is considered a precursor to melanoma,” says Dr. Ellen Marmur, chief of dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center.

She states that over the past twenty years the frequency of melanoma has gone up and with that dyplastic nevus diagnosis has gone up. “If I diagnosis a dyplastic nevus and it is a severe dysplastic nevus then I have to do surgery to remove all of it plus a margin of normal tissue around it to be sure that there aren’t any little cells that are left over in the skin, and I do see them every six months.”

Dysplastic nevus can vary in severity. And not only can sun exposure play a role, but there is for some an inherited component. Somewhere between 2 and 5 percent of the population has this, so that means a lot of people need to be checked by the doctor. Buffy was biopsied; it turned out to be normal. Now, she’s going to continue to have fun in the sun, but now with the right precautions.

 “She made me feel better when she took some more off. I am just going to be more careful, I can’t undo what I have done but I am just going to go forward with good sunscreen and continue running and playing tennis, but just watching them and coming back every three months or six months,” says Buffy. In fact, an annual screening with the dermatologist is recommended.


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