Almost all teenagers and adults have moles. They generally develop during childhood through young adulthood. They are made up of nevus (mole) cells growing in the skin. Normal moles are usually a uniform light to medium brown color and round or oval shape. They may be flat or symmetrically dome-shaped and raised. Congenital moles are present at birth. These are frequently larger and darker than other moles.
Although most moles are harmless, some may develop into melanoma. Moles exhibiting any of the following warning signs should be examined by your dermatologist:
- Larger than six millimeter.
- Itching or bleeding
- Rapid change in color, size or shape
- Multiple colors or very dark brown/black color
- Asymmetry or notched borders
Keratoses are growths with a rough scaly texture. This category includes precancerous actinic keratoses and benign seborrheic keratoses.
Actinic keratoses commonly occur in fair-skinned individuals in sun exposed areas like the forehead, nose, cheeks, ears, and hands. They tend to be pink in color and feel dry like sand paper. It is important that they are they are treated since they can evolve into squamous cell carcinomas.
Seborrheic keratoses occur in people of all skin types. They tend to be tan to dark brown in color and occur almost anywhere on the body. They can be confused with a melanoma when they are darker in color. Since they may be difficult to distinguish from a melanoma, individuals with any darker changing spot should be checked by their dermatologist.
At Bloomfield Dermatology, skin cancer is one of the major focuses of our practice. We specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, follow-up and prevention of skin cancer. One in five people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Risk factors include fair skin, light eye color, family history of skin cancer, and a history of sunburns and frequent sun exposure. Fortunately, skin cancer is almost always curable if detected and treated early.
The most common forms of skin cancer are:
- Basal cell carcinoma - 80 - 85% of all skin cancers. They usually appear as a pink pearly spot that grows slowly. They frequently have a history of bleeding easily and then healing.
- Squamous cell carcinoma - 10% of all skin cancers. These start as rough scaly actinic keratoses which later become thicker and firmer in texture. The face, ears, upper chest and arms are the most frequent locations.
- Melanoma - 5% of all skin cancers. This is the most serious form of skin cancer. It usually appears as a dark growing irregularly shaped mole. The most frequent locations are on the back in men and the legs in women. People with many moles and fair skin are at higher risk.
Skin cancers can vary in shape, color, size and texture, so any new, changing or suspicious growth should be examined immediately by a physician. Early intervention is essential in the successful treatment of skin cancer.
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Repeated exposure to sunlight can cause a variety of cosmetic and medical problems in our skin. These include telangiectasia (red or purple veins) on the face, uneven pigmentation, lines and wrinkles, thinning of skin, loss of skin elasticity, and melanoma and other skin cancers. The damage our skin suffers from sunlight is cumulative and often gradual, so the effects appear as we age and worsen with time. Adequate protection from the sun and avoidance of other sources of ultraviolet light such as tanning salons are an important part of preventing this damage. However, there are ways to cosmetically improve damage that has already been occurred. Injectable fillers such as Restylane®, Juvéderm™ and Sculptra™ fill out lines and wrinkles to give the skin a fuller, smoother look. Fraxel® laser resurfacing can reduce the appearance of uneven pigmentation and facial lines. Chemical peels and Silk Peel microdermabrasion remove the surface layer of skin to expose a fresher,healthier, younger-looking skin beneath.
Age spots, also called liver spots, are flat brown patches on the skin that have darkened in color (“pigmented”) after exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet light. They are commonly seen in people over the age of 40 on areas of skin that are frequently exposed to sunlight, such as the hands, shoulders, forearms, face and forehead. Age spots may look unattractive, but they are harmless, although their darker color may delay the diagnosis of some skin cancers. Age spots can be lightened with Fraxel laser treatments, bleaching creams and sun protection.
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