Nevi is the clinical name for moles, which are clustered pigmented cells found on the skin. Moles appear as small spots with dark brown color and can have a range of colors. These pigmented cells can develop anywhere on the body. In most cases, moles are harmless but in rare situations, they can become cancerous. It is essential that moles be monitored in order to help detect any signs of turning into cancerous growths and more specifically malignant melanoma.
Although not all melanomas form from existing moles, these cells can begin as new growths on the skin surface. Information from American Academy of Dermatology hints that in every five Americans, one is likely to develop a form of cancerous growth of the skin in lifetime. It is believed that sun exposure and more so ultraviolet-A radiation is the leading cause for skin related cancer while people with fair skin are more vulnerable to the devastating effects of ultraviolet rays.
Apparently, skin cancers can be detected earlier than other forms of cancers because the tumors are visible on the skin. If you notice suspicious changes on the skin or lesions, it is important that you see a doctor for further investigation. If you have moles that changes in their look, starts becoming itchy, and bleeds, you should consult a doctor.
Similarly, when you notice new moles and sores as well as ulcers that are not healing despite applying medication, it is advisable that you get close examination of the condition. Moles that have exhibited abnormal changes in growth should also prompt a medical attention. There are mainly two types of cancer of the skin and they are malignant melanoma (cancer in moles) and non-melanoma cancer or the basal cell and squamous carcinoma.
A guide to looking for suspicious moles
As assistant professor of dermatology at New York University, Ariel Ostad, MD says, you need to be on the lookout for suspicious skin moles because most cancers of the skin begin as irregular spots. Checking out your skin every few months could help detect unusual skin growths. According to Dr. Ostad, moles do not change shape or evolve and they are typically small than a pencil eraser with symmetrical round shape, even color and smooth borders.
One way in which you could detect that moles on your skin are beginning to turn cancerous is to check for Actinic keratosis. This is common sign of precancerous growth and it is mainly found on body parts like forearms, face, hands and scalp. These Actinic keratosis growths should be removed because about 5 to 10 percent turn cancerous. A patient with this growth may notice rough, red or pink patches that are flesh-toned and may be itchy or scary.
Besides the Actinic keratosis, people should also look for other signs such as basal cell carcinoma. This is a type of cancer, which is caused by sun exposure, and it can easily be treated if it is detected in advance. Basal cell carcinoma is mainly found on face often appearing as pinkish or reddish patches, which could scab or bleed. Dr. Ostad says, if you see a picture of a pimple that seems to heal and suddenly returns, then you need close examination for basal cell carcinoma.
Similarly, Squamous cell carcinoma occurs on hands, legs and the body. This is a type of cancer and can be cured if it is detected in its early stages. In this type of skin cancer, you will notice thick growth which may peel and start bleeding. The growth may have irregularly shaped border and it looks more like a wart than a pimple. Melanoma is a serious form of cancer. It can spread very quickly. It is regarded as the most deadly of the skin cancers. However, it can be cured if it is detected in its early stages.
Melanoma usually affects women’s legs and you will rarely find it affecting the face. In men, it is more commonly found on the torso. When you see dark irregular growths that have reddish-brown to black color, you should alert your dermatologist or doctor.
Screening for cancerous moles
It is important that you be proactive and keep a good eye on any dangerous moles which may grow to cancerous form. Although rarely moles grow into cancer, this can happen and it is better you identify it in advance. If you have a family history of skin cancer and you already have moles in your body, these are two factors that you need to closely check and examine. Monitoring your moles can help you detect any abdominal growths that could turn to cancer form.
Examining yourself for moles could also help in early detection of melanoma, something that is very crucial. The earlier you detect a skin cancer, the easier it can be treated but when left untreated for long, and it could turn worse thus being difficult to respond to medication. If you or your relative have moles, it is advisable that you examine yourself at least once per month as most moles are begin or non-cancerous. Moles which may need great medical attention are those which look different from existing ones and the ones that appear first in adulthood.
If your moles behave in one or more of the following ways, they could be having skin cancer.
- Asymmetrical shape meaning that one-half of a mole does not match with the other half.
- Borders or edges of moles which begin to be ragged, irregular and blurred
- A mole that has different colors or it starts shades of blue, white, tan, brown, or red colors.
- The mole’s diameter seems to be larger than that of an eraser of a pencil.
- A mole that evolves and changes in appearance including size, shape and colors appearing different from the others.
These signs are known as the ABCDE method of detecting signs of cancer in moles. Skin cancer may be difficult to recognize and therefore a biopsy test may be performed. The tissue is examined under a microscope to determine the possibility of a cancerous growth. Some GPs can do the biopsy in surgery but this is usually done by dermatologists or plastic surgeons. Doctors also look for any indications of cancer spreading to the surrounding tissue and lymph nodes.
Risk factors for malignant melanoma or cancer in moles
If you are having dysplastic nevus, you are at higher risk of suffering cancerous moles in form of melanoma. A dysplastic nevus is a kind of mole, which appears different from others. It is also referred to as an atypical mole that may be bigger than others. It may also change its color and surface and its border may also be different. This mole can have a mixture of several colors ranging from pink to darkish brown. The mole is flat and has slightly scaly appearance, a pebbly surface and irregular edge that at times fades to the surrounding skin.
Other risk factors is having more than 50 common moles. In addition, if you are exposed to ultraviolet rays and especially UVA radiation, this could damage your skin causing melanoma and other cancers. Tanning may also cause a person to be susceptible to melanoma. Tan lamps and tanning beds or booths may also be a contributing factor. Similarly, people of family history that tend to suffer from melanoma may also be at risk.
Treatment of cancer in moles or melanoma
The chances of a patient being cured of cancer in moles largely depends on how early the treatment is done. Failure to treat the disease can cause death. Surgery is the most common way of treating mole cancer. The extent of procedure is also depended upon the thickness of tumor or how deeply it has invaded the skin.
When surgery is being done, it should remove the tumor as well as the surrounding tissue and the fatty tissue beneath. Interferon may be administered after surgery so that it reduces the chances of melanoma returning after a patient has had a surgery. In cases where cancer has spread to other parts, medical treatment may be used. In addition, chemotherapy and radiotherapy may also be applied in advanced cases of cancer.
Cancerous moles pictures