Detecting Cancerous Moles and Discolorations


Moles and freckles can add character to our faces; some standing out as a distinguishing feature (think the beauty mark). But as we accumulate years of exposure to the sun, we run a greater risk of seeing a once-benign common mole become cancerous, particularly among those of us who have 50 or more common moles. Or we might see a new discoloration arise that seems unusual.

The skin, of course, changes and not every new spot is a cause for alarm. So how can you determine if a mole or discoloration is something to be concerned about? Be observant, have a yearly skin cancer screening, and seek a medical opinion if you see a suspicious growth.

Get to Know Your Skin

A cancerous mole reveals its presence through irregularity and change: an asymmetric shape, a change in size, and/or a difference in color. The more familiar you are with the moles and markings on your skin, the greater chance you have of noticing a change.

In addition to an annual skin cancer screening by a medical professional, a monthly self-examination should be done to check for changes or suspicious moles. To determine if a mole or discoloration should be of concern, follow the ABCDE guide. If you see a mole that is asymmetrical (A); has an irregular border (B); is not uniform in color, has a diameter of about  ¼ inch or larger (D); and/or is evolving (E); you should have the lesions examined by a skin cancer specialist.

Skin cancer checks should be a part of your overall wellness program. Establishing a routine that includes monitoring the skin could make a difference in how a cancerous mole progresses.

See a Skin Cancer Specialist

A regular skin cancer screening can help ensure early detection, especially if you have fair skin or a family history of skin cancer. If a lesion looks out of the ordinary, a sample of the skin will be taken (a skin biopsy). A biopsy will indicate whether the mole is cancerous and, if it is, what type of skin cancer it is. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are the more common forms of skin cancer, while melanoma is the rarest (but most serious).

A cancerous lesion can be removed by Mohs surgery, a procedure that involves removing the cancerous skin cells layer by layer. Each layer is examined under the microscope until there is no longer any indication of damaged tissue.

Skin cancer is the most common type cancer in the United States. When diagnosed and treated early, it the cure rate is high. If you have any doubts about a lesion, contact a skin cancer specialist for a comprehensive evaluation. If you are wishing to have facial reconstruction after removing skin cancer, contact Dr. Furze at his Newport Beach office at (800) 498-3223.

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