Moles - Skin Cancers

Have any of your moles been diagnosed as skin cancer? If so, what was the treatment?

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Which skin cancers look like moles?

Melanoma

This very dangerous form of skin cancer may appear even in young people and on parts of the body that are sun exposed as well as those that are protected. While the exact cause of melanoma is not entirely known, genetics and ultraviolet rays are known to play a part. Melanomas may arise from a previously normal mole or pigmented spot that has been present many years or lifelong. Melanomas may also arise from completely normal skin without an apparent preexisting mole. In comparison with benign (noncancerous) moles, melanomas tend to be larger, darker, and have more irregular color and shape variations. Most melanomas are actually flat and not raised as many people tend to incorrectly assume.

Lentigo maligna ("malignant mole")

This is an uncommon fairly superficial skin cancer that generally occurs on the faces of older adults who have a history of considerable sun exposure. Over the course of months to years, this condition may, if untreated, develop into a more aggressive malignant variety called lentigo maligna melanoma. There are, of course, many hundreds of ordinary facial moles for every one that is potentially malignant. A simple in-office test called a skin biopsy can help diagnose lentigo maligna.

Basal cell carcinoma

This is the most common type of skin cancer. These are usually pearly, pink, or reddish in color and may bleed easily. Pigmented basal cell carcinoma is a type of basal cell that may be confused for a mole or seborrheic keratosis because of its brown or dark color. A simple skin biopsy procedure can help diagnose this growth.

When should I see a doctor?

Unusual moles or pigmented spots should have their physician or dermatologist evaluate them. Even verbal descriptions and photographs cannot convey enough information for satisfactory self-diagnosis. Routine annual mole checks are an important part of your general health screenings. Birthdays are a good time to remember to schedule your annual "birthday suit" mole check. Since existing moles may change and new growth arise, periodic rechecks are necessary.

How often should I check my moles?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends monthly skin self-exams and a full-body skin examination for adults as part of a routine annual health exam. It is important to have any new, changing, bleeding mole or growth examined by your physician or dermatologist as soon as possible. Skin cancers, including melanomas, are generally curable if diagnosed and treated at an early stage.

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