Human skin is not perfectly smooth and blemish-free. Many people have freckles, skin tags and moles that break up their complexion. The vast majority of darkly pigmented areas of skin are benign, meaning they don’t cause cancer. Others are more worrisome. Learn more about the most common skin lesions and when they require treatment from a dermatologist.
Freckles are small brown dots most commonly found in places that receive the most sunlight, including the face, neck, chest and arms. Fair-skinned, light-haired people are most likely to develop freckles, especially after spending time outside in the summer.
While freckles are extremely common and no cause for concern, they do indicate that you’re more likely to develop skin cancer from sun exposure. Protect yourself by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with 30 SPF or higher every day.
Skin tags are small flaps of tissue that protrude from the skin. They are most commonly found on the neck, chest, armpits, back, under the breasts or in the groin region.
Skin tags are not cancerous and usually don’t cause any pain, but if yours are bothersome, you can have them removed. This is done in one of three ways: cutting the stem of the skin tag with a scalpel, freezing it off with cryosurgery or burning it off with electrosurgery.
Moles are brown or black spots that can appear anywhere on the skin. They occur when skin-darkening cells called melanocytes cluster together rather than spreading throughout the skin. Most moles develop in your youth, and by the time you’re an adult, you may have 10 to 40 moles. As time goes by, moles may become raised, change color, sprout dark hairs or even slowly disappear.
There are three types of moles. Congenital moles are ones you’re born with. Atypical moles are larger than a pencil eraser and irregular in shape. Acquired moles appear after birth. If you have large congenital moles, any atypical moles, or more than 50 to 100 acquired moles, you have a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
The vast majority of moles are benign, but you can follow the ABCDEs to help you determine if a mole might be cancerous:
- Asymmetry: An irregularly shaped mole could be precancerous.
- Borders: A mole with a jagged, uneven or blurry border is cause for concern.
- Color: If a single mole has different colors in it, you should speak with a dermatologist.
- Diameter: Any mole larger than 6 mm should be evaluated for possible skin cancer.
- Evolution: Keep an eye out for changes in the size, shape or color of your moles.
A biopsy determines if the mole in question is cancerous. If it is, your dermatologist will cut it out and stitch the wound closed.
If you see signs of malignant moles or other growths on your skin, meet with a dermatologist right away. You can set an appointment at Arlington Dermatology in Rolling Meadows, IL by calling (847) 725-0824 today.