What do atypical (or pre-cancerous) skin biopsy results mean? Many patients wonder if this should be cause for concern or just a warning sign. When interpreting atypical biopsy results it is important to understand the facts related to your specific health history, as not all diagnoses of atypical mean the same thing.
Medically speaking 'atypical' moles biopsied during a skin exam (most commonly a shave biopsy) are unusual-looking benign (noncancerous) moles. In atypical/precancerous results a pathologist sees abnormal features under the microscope but not enough to clinically diagnose the results as melanoma.
If the doctor removed all the margins of the atypical area (meaning the edges of the sample showed no precancerous cells) he/she will evaluate your medical history and create the appropriate plan moving forward, most likely suggesting your next skin exam in 6 months opposed to 12 (especially for those who have a personal or family history with melanoma).
If the margins in the sample were not clear and the degree of atypical was moderate to server the doctor may have you return for a further biopsy to make sure all atypical cells are removed, this is also likely if have a history of skin cancer.
Most melanomas arise in normal, not atypical, skin so unless you have a higher risk factor your result of atypical/precancerous is just a friendly nudge to perform self skin exams, be diligent about your sun safety and regularly see your dermatologist.
Over due for your appointment? Have a spot you're suspicious of? Call today and make an appointment with our new medical dermatologist- Dr. Ashton Rountree.