Patients commonly present to our clinic for removal of bothersome skin lesions. A skin lesion is an abnormal growth or patch of skin that doesn't look like the area nearby. Skin lesions can be divided into two categories: primary and secondary.
Primary skin lesions are variations in color or texture that may be present at birth, such as moles or birthmarks. They also may appear during a person's lifetime, such as warts, acne, or psoriasis.
Secondary skin lesions include changes in the skin caused by primary skin lesions, either as a natural progression or because of scratching or picking at the skin. We may wonder: What is this new mark on my skin? Where did it come from? And why?
Below, we address some of these concerns and cover the basics of skin lesions, helping you understand what yours could be and how it got there. Look for these indicators that suggest your mole or lesion has become a secondary lesion or may be cancerous:
· A change in size (getting larger)
· A change in shape (especially with irregular edges)
· A change in color (especially getting darker or exhibiting multiple shades)
· A loss of symmetry (common moles will be perfectly round or oval and are usually symmetrical)
· Itchiness, pain or bleeding (maybe even forming a scab)
· Exhibiting three different shades of brown or black
· A change in elevation (thickening or raising of a flat mole)
Types of Skin Cancer
Basal Cell Carcinoma usually appears in sun-exposed areas of your body, such as your neck or face. It may appear as a pearly or waxy bump or a flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma most often occurs on sun-exposed areas of your body such as your face, ears and hands. It may appear as a firm, red nodule or a flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface.
Melanoma can develop anywhere on your body, in otherwise normal skin, or in an existing mole that becomes cancerous. Melanoma most often occurs on the face or the trunk of affected men. In women, this type of cancer most often develops on the lower legs. Melanoma signs include 1) a large brownish spot with darker speckles 2) A mole that changes color, size and feel, or that bleeds 3) A small lesion with an irregular border and portions that appear red, white, blue or blue-black 4) Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining your mouth or nose.
The ABCDE method below, a dermatologist-recommended tool for identifying potentially at-risk moles, could be helpful in deciding whether or not to get a physician’s opinion of your lesion. While most melanomas can be identified using the ABCDE method, not all fall within these symptoms.
Melanoma lesions are often irregular, or not symmetrical, in shape. Benign moles are usually symmetrical.
B – Border
Typically, non-cancerous moles have smooth, even borders. Melanoma lesions usually have irregular borders that are difficult to define.
C – Color
The presence of more than one color (blue, black, brown, tan, etc.) or the uneven distribution of color can sometimes be a warning sign of melanoma. Benign moles are usually a single shade of brown or tan.
D – Diameter
Melanoma lesions are often greater than 6 millimeters in diameter (approximately the size of a pencil eraser).
E – Evolution
The evolution of your mole(s) is the most important factor to consider when it comes to diagnosing a melanoma. Knowing what is normal for YOU could save your life. If a mole has gone through recent changes in color and/or size, bring it to the attention of a physician immediately.
If you have a bothersome skin growth, please make an appointment with our physician for evaluation and treatment recommendations.