Skin Cancer Education
Patient Education at Medical Skin Associates
Lentigines, or liver spots, are benign lesions that occur on the sun-exposed areas of the body. The backs of hands and face are common areas. The lesions tend to increase in number with age, making them common among the middle age and older population. They can vary in size from 0.2 to 2 cm. These flat lesions usually have discrete borders, are dark in color, and have an irregular shape. No treatment required. They can be reduced with cosmetic BBL laser treatment or fading cream, which are not covered by medical insurance.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
The most common appearance is a raised pink or pearly white bump that may have a translucent, rolled, pearly edge and small blood vessels. Some basal cell carcinomas are pigmented and may look like a mole with a pearly border. Another type is flat and scaly with a waxy appearance and an indistinct border. All of the basal cell carcinoma types have a tendency to bleed with minimal to no trauma. Treatments include electrodessication and curettage or excision, which are covered by most medical insurances.
Seborrheic keratoses are lesions that don't ever turn into cancer. SK's for short, can look dangerous. In reality they are just annoying. Also irreverently called barnacles or age spots, they come in all different shapes and sizes from large black growths to barely noticeable raised areas. No treatment is required, but if irritating or inflammed treatment is typically with cryotherapy (freezing) which may be covered by most medical insurances.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The skin change caused by squamous cell carcinoma most often looks like a scab, as they have a thick, adherent scale on a red, inflamed base. However, whereas a normal scab will heal within 2 weeks, a squamous cell carcinoma does not heal and may intermittently bleed. As it spreads into the dermis, this skin cancer can appear like an ulcer with hard, raised edges. The most common areas squamous cell carcinoma is found are in sun-exposed areas. Treatment is typically excision, which is typically covered by most medical insurances.
An actinic keratosis (AK) is a common precancerous skin lesion that grows slowly. If left untreated it can turn into a basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. AK's are usually less than 1cm, scaly lesions that occur on sun-exposed areas. They can be flesh-colored, pink or red, feel like sandpaper and are often diagnosed easier by feeling them rather than seeing them. Treatments include cryotherapy (freezing), photodynamic therapy, or creams, which are typically covered by most medical insurances.
Melanoma is a cancer in pigment-producing cells in the skin. Melanoma is the most dangerous type because the cancer can spread to other areas of the body, or metastasize. This cancer can be fatal, but early diagnosis and treatment can have excellent outcomes. History of family members increases your risk. Because of the complexity and risk of this skin cancer, your treatment plans will have to be discussed on an individual basis. Please see the ABCDE's of melanoma for more details.
Patient Education At Medical Skin Associates
ABCDE's Of Melanoma
If you draw a line through this mole, the two halves will not match, meaning it is asymmetrical, a warning sign for melanoma.
Early melanoma's borders tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.
Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, white or blue.
Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the size of the eraser on your pencil (1/4 inch or 6mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.
When a mole is evolving, see a doctor. any change in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting points to danger.