Are atypical melanocytic hyperplasia and in situ melanoma one and the same?

“Yes, I consider them the same thing; it all depends who is reading the slides,” says Dr. David Rahimi, MD, F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon.

I was inspired to write this article because I read about a man whose biopsy result came back “benign.”

He asked to see the report a few years later and saw the phrasing “atypical melanocytic hyperplasia” and then “in situ melanoma.”

He was alarmed that he had been told it was benign.

Pathologist Dependent

Dr. Rahimi explains, “Newer microscopes and staining of the tissue allow a pathologist to look at individual cells and make a judgement call.

“Five skilled and experienced pathologists may look at the same slide and have two widely different interpretations ranging from mildly atypical to severely atypical.

“The two sides of the spectrum, normal and clearly melanoma, are easily identified.

“Everything in between is fuzzy and has been ‘interpreted’ by the pathologist.

“Also, often the specimen is ‘cut again’ for additional slides to be taken to a new doctor for a second evaluation.

“These second cuts or deeper cuts may look different (better or worse) and this often complicates the issue.”

And by the way, whenever you have a mole removed — regardless of the reason — be it for cosmetic purposes, or because it gets irritated from clothes due to its location, or you just have a funny feeling about the spot — GET IT BIOPSIED.

So what should you do when the biopsy report comes back?

Request to see the biopsy report of your mole or suspicious spot…immediately, and read it word for word.

“Atypical” refers to a cell that’s not typical.

“Hyperplasia” refers to excessive but benign growth; and “in situ” means very locally confined.

Dr. Rahimi is the founder of Forever Young, Inc.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia