Home Moles and Melanoma Moles, Sun exposure and Skin Cancer

Moles, Sun exposure and Skin Cancer

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Moles or nevi are common to all people. The numbers of moles you have has a lot to do with how much sun you are exposed to and your family’s tendency to get moles. People are rarely born with moles, but acquire moles throughout their lives. Sometimes moles can become cancerous and if this happens, the cancer can be life threatening and is called melanoma.

Signs of changes of a mole that can give one a clue to this cancerous change is how the mole looks. Your doctor will recommend performing a monthly skin check and looking for changes in Appearance, Border, Color, Diameter greater than that of an eraser on a pencil, and changes such as itching, burning or bleeding.

Another way of looking for suspect moles is to see if you have an ‘Ugly Duckling’ mole; a mole that doesn’t look like the others. If you do notice a change in a mole contact your doctor to schedule an appointment.

The importance of sun protection and sun avoidance is critical to prevent moles from becoming cancerous. Most melanomas arise from changes to the mole brought about by sun damage. Avoiding the sun from 11 am to 3 pm, using a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of over 30 and reapplying this product every 3 to 4 hours, and wearing protective clothing can work to help one avoid cancer-causing sun rays. It is recommended to find shade and wear sun protective clothes. Many sun protective clothing lines exist including Sunday Afternoons and Solumbra.

Sunscreens also protect circulating white blood cells in the skin from the damage. These white blood cells are like an army patrolling the area for bad guys. Using sun screens helps these white blood cells work better. We recommend using a broad spectrum SPF of 30 sun screen daily.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the USA. The most common cancer is basal cell carcinoma seconded by squamous cell carcinoma. These two skin cancers result from excessive sun exposure where the DNA of the skin is changed and a skin cancer can result. These cancers tend to be slow-growing surface tumors which only if neglected can result in death.

The most lethal and remarkable skin cancer is melanoma which if caught early can be removed but if deep, can be life threatening. Melanomas arise from pigment-producing cells called melanocytes which can undergo change by the sun’s rays and become cancerous.

If a lesion occurs and is steadily growing, consult your doctor.

 

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Daniel J Farrugia MD PhD

Daniel J Farrugia MD PhD is a fellowship-trained board-certified surgeon in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

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