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Signs of Malignant Skin Lesions

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with close to 4 million new cases of basal cell carcinoma diagnosed each year. Finding melanoma early significantly increases the chances of beating it. Detected early, the five-year survival rate of melanoma is 99%.

Dr. Yvonne Hines and the highly trained team at Hines Dermatology have extensive experience diagnosing and treating a wide range of skin conditions from simple to complex. 

Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can save your life. Learn when a mole is likely harmless, and when it’s wise to seek expert evaluation. 

Our experts have compiled some information about what to look out for in new and existing skin lesions. 

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer occurs when cells in the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin) grow at a pace that is out of control. The skin cells grow rapidly and develop into malignant tumors. The primary types of skin cancer are:

Basal cell carcinoma: These cancers arise from the uncontrolled growth of skin cells at the bottom of the epidermis. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. 

Squamous cell carcinoma: These cancers arise from the uncontrolled growth of the thin, flat, squamous cells that make up the epidermis. 

Melanoma: These cancers arise from the uncontrolled growth of melanocytes (skin cells that produce pigment) and are faster-growing and more lethal than other types of skin cancer.

The ABCDE’s of skin cancer

Most moles and growths that develop on your skin are harmless, but it’s important to check your skin regularly and know the characteristics of malignant lesions. The first five letters of the alphabet serve as an easy-to-remember guide in what to watch for. 

A: Asymmetry

Do both sides of the mole or growth match (symmetrical), or are they asymmetrical? Skin cancer growths often have an irregular shape. If the two halves of the lesion look different, it’s a good idea to have the spot checked out. 

B: Border

Harmless moles and spots have smooth, even borders, unlike malignant lesions. The borders of skin cancer lesions tend to appear uneven. Spots with jagged, irregular borders can be a sign of a malignant lesion. 

C: Color

Benign moles usually have one shade of brown. Malignant lesions often have different shades of brown or multiple colors. 

D: Diameter

It is a warning sign if a mole or growth is larger than the size of a pencil eraser -- roughly one-quarter inch.  Lesions that appear darker than other spots on your skin also warrant evaluation. 

E: Evolving

Harmless spots remain the same in appearance. Any change in shape, size, color, or texture is a warning sign that you need to have the spot checked out. 

Enlisting a dermatologist as part of your care team is invaluable. If you have a family history of skin cancer, a previous history of malignant lesions, or other risk factors such as excessive sun exposure, it’s especially vital to attend regular checkups with a dermatologist. 

For more information on how our expert team of dermatology specialists can help you keep your skin healthy, contact our Attleboro, Massachusetts, office at 508-222-1976 or book online to schedule an appointment. 

Another option is to send a message to Dr. Hines and the team here on our website.

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