Moles / Skin Cancers / Skin Cancer Prevention


My Moles Are Changing. Does This Mean It’s Becoming A Skin Cancer?

Though a changing mole is definitely a reason to be concerned, moles, or nevi, will always be changing, just like the rest of your body is changing. They are dynamic. The cells that make up a true melanocytic nevus is the melanocyte. This cell is responsible for producing the color in our skin as well as in our moles. Over time, they may slowly migrate deeper into our skin, producing raised moles, and may even lose their color. It is also natural to have new moles pop up during the course of your lifetime. Nevertheless, if a long-standing stable mole does begin to change rapidly, it is always better to have it examined closely by a dermatologist to make sure that it is still on a benign path.

How Do I Know If I Am At Risk At Developing A Skin Cancer?

Many factors can contribute to developing skin cancers. Fair skin individuals with many atypical moles, red hair, a family history of skin cancers, a history of blistering sun burns, and many years of sun exposure are the most common causes. Long term immunosuppression, such as transplant patients, and a history of radiation can contribute to an increase rate of skin cancer formation.

What Is A Skin Cancer And What Are The Most Common Skin Cancers?

Cancers are atypical overgrowths of a type of cell. Various skin cancers are differentiated from the type cell that they arise from. The most common ones are atypical growths of basal cells, squamous cells, or melanocytes, thus the most common skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and melanomas. The frequency that they arise vary based on different ethnicities and location. Basal cell carcinomas traditionally grow slowly, though melanomas and squamous cell carcinomas have much higher rates of metastasis, making treatment much more difficult when a diagnosis is delayed.

Is Skin Cancer Preventable Or Curable?

Yes! In many cases it is, and your risk for skin cancer can drastically decrease by minimizing sun burns, tanning, and providing overall sun protection. Field treatment, aka treating a whole area on the body, can remove early mutated cells before they have a chance to progress into skin cancers. Many skin cancers are curable, especially when caught early. Annual skin cancer screenings allow for early skin cancers to be detected, and there are many treatments available including topical creams, scrapings, and surgical excisions.

What Is A Skin Biopsy?

If there is a new spot that you are concerned about and is clinically concerning to your dermatologist, a skin biopsy can be performed. A skin biopsy consists of removing a small sample of the skin and having it examined by a dermatopathologist, who will be able to determine whether it is a skin cancer.

I heard that melanomas are the dangerous kind of skin cancer. What should I be looking out for?

Melanomas are skin cancers formed by atypical melanocytes. Though most commonly found in the skin, they can be found wherever they produce pigment, including the eye! The classic signs to look out for in a melanoma can be summarized with ABCDE.

  • A – Asymmetry: where one side is not like the other
  • B – Borders and bleeding: where there may be irregular or indistinct borders, and easy bleeding of the lesion
  • C – Colors: multiple colors are seen, such as various shades of brown, white, red, and black
  • D – Diameter: classically larger than 6mm, though with better advances in technology and using dermatoscopy, dermatologists are detecting melanomas as small as 2mm!
  • E – Evolving: This may be one of the most important criteria. Any mole that is rapidly evolving should be assessed by a trained eye.

Why Should I Schedule A Skin Cancer Screening And What Should I Expect?

We recommend scheduling a once a year skin cancer screening, especially for those with a family history of skin cancers, fair skin, red hair, blue eyes, or a history of tanning and sunburns. Regular home-checks (either by yourself or your spouse) allow you to detect any changes or new moles that may occur. For those without a personal history of skin cancers, we recommend a once annual skin cancer screening.

During this detailed exam, we check every nook and cranny for suspicious lesions, including you scalp, nails, inside the mouth, and between the fingers and toes. Regular exams allow your board-certified dermatologist to pick up early skin cancers, which may have a higher success rate for cure and require less treatment.

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