Moles & Skin Cancer

Moles or “nevi” are composed of groups of pigment producing cells called melanocytes. They are important to monitor because of their potential risk for turning into malignant melanoma. People with more moles have an increased risk of melanoma. Most Caucasian adults have about 20 nevi. Dysplastic moles, which are clinically and microscopically atypical appearing, are putative precursor lesions of melanoma. Dysplastic moles occur in 30% of patients with primary melanoma and in 6% of their family members. People with a family history of dysplastic nevi or have numerous atypical appearing moles themselves should be carefully monitored for melanoma. It is important to watch for the warning signs of melanoma and the ABCD’s of melanoma.

Here at The Bellevue Laser & Cosmetic Center, we encourage every dermatology patient to have a full skin exam at their initial visit. Skin cancers often are asymptomatic and our providers can determine if you have any suspicious appearing lesions. Moles may be removed because they are clinically worrisome or simply for cosmetic purposes. Mole removal is often surgical but in some cases, our providers may recommend CO2 laser treatment for cosmetic reasons.

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all types of cancers. It is estimated that more than one million Americans develop skin cancer every year. Fair-skinned people who sunburn easily are at a particularly high risk for developing skin cancer.

Actinic Keratoses (AK)

Actinic keratoses are precancerous skin lesions in sun-exposed areas of the face and body. They are often pink or red in color with a rough, crusty white or yellowish surface. AK’s may feel slightly tender to the touch. Left untreated, there is a chance that they can develop into skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Treatment may include liquid nitrogen or topical medications such as Efudex, Aldara, or Solareze. Patients with severe sun damage and numerous AK’s may also benefit from TCA chemical peels or photodynamic therapy treatment (PDT). our providers can help you determine the best treatment plan for your skin.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It generally looks like a pink or red shiny or scaly spot that tends to bleed and crust over but never heal. It is usually slow growing and generally does not spread to other areas of the body. However, BCC can extend below the skin to the bone and nerves, causing considerable local damage. It is usually not a life-threatening form of skin cancer.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer. It may appear as a bump or as a red scaly patch. SCC can develop into large masses and become invasive. Unlike BCC, this form of cancer can spread to other parts of the body. Therefore, it is important to get early treatment.

Treatment for BCC and SCC

When found and treated properly, the cure rate for both BCC and SCC is over 95%. Depending on the type of BCC/SCC, the location, and the size, there are several treatment options available. They may range from topical creams such as Aldara to liquid nitrogen treatment to electrodessication & curettage to excisional surgery. For skin cancers of the head and neck, the most effective and tissue-conserving therapy is Mohs Micrographic Surgery. Dr. Nobu Kageyama at our affiliate office, North Pacific Dermatology, specializes in this type of treatment.

At The Bellevue Laser & Cosmetic Center and North Pacific Dermatology, our providers are dedicated to diagnosing and treating skin cancer. We offer skin cancer screenings to all of our new patients, no matter what you come in for. We also encourage regular skin checks to carefully monitor any skin changes.

Malignant Melanoma

Malignant melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers. Every year, an estimated 8000 Americans will die from melanoma; it is projected that greater than 108,000 Americans will develop melanoma annually.

Melanoma begins in melanocytes, the skin cells that produce the dark protective pigment called melanin which makes the skin tan. Since melanoma cells usually continue to produce melanin, the cancer appears in mixed shades of tan, brown, and black; although, it can also be red or white. Melanoma can spread, making early detection and treatment essential.

Melanoma may appear suddenly or begin in or near a mole or freckle. It is important to know the location and appearance of the moles on your body to detect changes early. Any changing mole must be examined by a dermatologist. Melanoma can be cured if treated in its early stages.

Excessive sun exposure, especially sunburn, is the most important preventable cause of melanoma. Light-skinned individuals are at particular risk. Heredity also plays a role. You have an increased chance of developing melanoma if you have a relative with melanoma. Atypical moles, which may run in families, and having a large number of moles, can serve as markers for people at increased risk for developing melanoma.

Dark skin is not a guarantee against melanoma. People with darker skin color can also develop melanoma, especially on the palms, soles, under the nails, in the mouth, or on the genitalia.

Warning signs of melanoma include:

  • Changes in the surface of a mole
  • Scaling, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a new bump
  • Spread of pigment from the border of a mole into surrounding skin
  • Change in sensation including itchiness, tenderness, or pain

The ABCD’s of Melanoma: look for these warning signs!

  • Asymmetry: one half is unlike the other half
  • Border: an irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border
  • Color: is multicolored, black, or sometimes white, red, or blue
  • Diameter: greater than 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser)

At The Bellevue Laser & Cosmetic Center and North Pacific Dermatology, our providers are dedicated to diagnosing and treating skin cancer. We offer skin cancer screenings to all of our new patients, no matter what you come in for. We also encourage regular skin checks to carefully monitor any skin changes.

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