Background:  Although a nevus with the microscopic features of a ‘dysplastic nevus’ is commonly seen, the nomenclature used to describe such a lesion has been thought to be inconsistent. A 1992 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Conference sought to unify nomenclature and suggested that the term ‘nevus with architectural disorder’ be used along with a comment on melanocytic atypia.

Methods:  We performed a cross-sectional mail survey to determine preferred terminology as well as the level of adherence to the NIH-recommended nomenclature. All 856 active members of the American Society of Dermatopathology (ASDP) and 1100 (13.0%) of the 8471 active members of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) were surveyed.

Results:  Five hundred and thirty-three ASDP members and 483 AAD members who fulfilled eligibility criteria completed the questionnaire. The term ‘dysplastic nevus’ was favored by the largest number of responders (favored by 39.1% of ASDP members and 62.3% of AAD members), while the 1992 NIH Consensus Conference-recommended terminology was the second most popular term (25.3% of ASDP and 15.1% of AAD members). Dermatopathologists (OR = 1.9, p = 0.0001) and those who had dual training in dermatology and dermatopathology (OR = 1.6, p = 0.02 for ASDP members; OR = 2.3, p = 0.02 for AAD members) were more likely to adhere to the 1992 NIH Consensus Conference nomenclature.

Conclusions:  Despite attempts to unify nomenclature for microscopically dysplastic nevi through the NIH Consensus Conference, wide variation in terminology persists.