Mole Evaluation

1 American dies of melanoma almost every hour

Yes, you read that right. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), melanoma claims the life of 1 person every hour and current estimates are that one in five people will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. These numbers are staggering, but the good news is that skin cancers have a 98% cure rate when caught early.  

Dr. Beverly recommends routine skin checks and mole evaluations to detect atypical moles and skin cancers. Most people have freckles, birthmarks and/or moles, the majority of which are benign.  However, it’s important to notice any changes that might indicate cancer presence.


ABCDEs of Melanoma:
  • Asymmetry – One half of the mole doesn’t match the other half
  • Border – The border is scalloped, uneven or poorly defined
  • Color – The color is not even, but various shades of brown or changes color to black, red or white
  • Diameter – The size of the mole is growing to a size wider than a pencil eraser (1/4”)
  • Evolving – Changing in shape, size, or in symptoms (bleeding, burning, itching, pain)
    **Visit the AAD website for visual examples of each skin cancer red flag**

 

You should be seen by a dermatologist if you notice any of these changes. When in doubt, have it checked out!


How to Stay Safe:
  • Minimize Exposure: Wear sunscreen when you’re out in the sun. Add a hat or UPF-rated (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) clothing for greater coverage. Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves and pants will minimize UV exposure but also keep you cool during summer months. More Sun Safe Tips!

  • Stay Vigilant: Perform monthly self-exams to check for suspicious moles or sores (AAD Self Exam), paying special attention to:
    • Moles that are growing or changing in color, texture or border
    • Spots or sores that itch, hurt, crust or bleed
    • An open sore that doesn’t heal within one month
  • See a Specialist: Visit your dermatologist, being sure to mention spots that you believe have grown or otherwise changed (see ABCDEs of skin cancer above).  At our offices, Dr. Beverly will thoroughly check your skin and biopsy any suspicious spots to determine if any cancerous cells are present.



 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells, mainly in the upper layer of skin (epidermis).  Although skin cancers generally occur in areas of skin exposed to the sun, they can also develop in areas protected from the sun (such as the soles of your feet).  People with light skin or who sunburn easy are at greatest risk, but skin cancer can develop in any person, regardless of skin color or race.

Are all skin cancers the same?

No. There are three main types of skin cancers: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma; and together they make up nearly all of diagnosed cases of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma is by far the most common, making up almost 80% of diagnosed skin cancer cases.  It is a slow growing cancer that starts in the deepest layer of the epidermis (basal layer).  Most of the remaining cases of skin cancer are squamous cell carcinoma, which is the second most common form.  Squamous cell carcinoma is caused by abnormal growth of cells in the squamous cell layer (upper epidermis). It is a fast growing tumor and much more invasive than basal cell carcinoma.  The third type, melanoma, represents a small percentage of skin cancers but large percentage of skin cancer deaths.  Melanoma begins in the epidermis’s pigment producing cells (melanocytes), but can easily metastasize to other areas in the body.  Melanomas are very aggressive and are the most dangerous form of skin cancer.  However, if caught early, melanomas are almost always curable.  In fact, if melanomas, basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas are caught before spreading to other areas, all three forms have a cure rate greater than 98%.

For more information, the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Cancer Society both have excellent reference websites for skin cancer:

American Academy of Dermatology

American Cancer Society

I’m a faithful sunscreen wearer and I always put on a hat, long sleeves and pants when I’m in the sun. Can I get skin cancer?

Yes! Healthy skin habits formed as an adult go a long way to reduce skin cancer risk by preventing new sun damage, but they don’t erase sun damage from time spent in the sun as a child or a teen.  Sun damage can take decades to manifest itself as skin cancer.  This is why it is so important to make sure that kids and teens are wearing sunscreen whenever they go into the sun. 

I have dark skin. Can I get skin cancer?

Yes! Skin cancer does not discriminate against race or skin color.  It is true that the pigment in darker skin tones, does offer some degree of protection from the sun’s rays. However, those with darker skin tones can still develop skin cancer and it can be harder to catch because spots often occur in between fingers or toes, under finger or toe nails, on soles of the feet or on the scalp.  A famous example was the dark-skinned Jamaican singer Bob Marley who died of melanoma—the skin cancer started on his foot but spread throughout his body.

I think I have a cancerous spot. What should I do?

Visit your dermatologist! Of course, we hope that you come visit our offices, but if you can’t come here, go somewhere. It’s important that if a spot looks suspicious you have it checked out.  Dermatologists are expert at spotting possible skin cancers, and your dermatologist will work with you to keep your skin as healthy as possible. But it’s important that you visit them.  Something that looks weird may actually be a benign growth. And something that hurts only a little could actually be a serious tumor. So when in doubt, have it checked out.

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