Melanoma can arise even from inconspicuous moles. It can be detected with a preventive examinationArticle
27. 05. 2022 Dermatovenerology
Many of us have skin moles, whether they have been present since birth or have appeared over the course of time. However, it is advisable to have a doctor examine every new mole, which could develop into a form of skin cancer called melanoma. With an annual preventive examination by a specialist, high-risk moles can be detected in the early stage of development. Risks and complications can be prevented by subsequently removing them. Treatment is very difficult at an advanced stage and there is a risk of metastasis to the lymph nodes, brain and other organs.
Moles on the skin are entirely common benign skin growths. Patients may have them from birth, but they can also appear spontaneously over the course of one’s life. The number of moles that one has is primarily determined by genetics. On average, every person has roughly twenty moles on their body and face.
Whether we should pay more attention to a particular mole can easily be determined using the “ABCDE method”, the name of which is also a simple guide to self-examination. Item A (asymmetry) examines whether the shape of the mole is (a)symmetrical. In most cases, a symmetrical mole is harmless. In the case of item B (borders), the borders of a benign mole should be regular and sharp. C (colour) focuses on the colour of the mole – a benign mole will usually be a single colour. D (diameter) refers to the diameter of the growth – if it is larger than 0.5 cm, it is necessary to focus greater attention on it. E (evolution) assesses any change in colour, size or appearance of the mole, which may also indicate a more serious problem. A mole should also never hurt or bleed. Of course, moles that have been on the patient’s body for a long time may also change over time.
Don’t forget to visit a dermatologist
Some moles may turn out to be a type of skin cancer called melanoma. Patients should therefore perform a self-examination at least once a month and, depending on their skin phototype, visit a dermatologist once every one to two years. It is also important not to forget to protect the skin from UV solar radiation and to pay close attention to any changes on the surface of the skin after the summer months.
"Examination of moles is completely painless and can be perform year round. The entire skin surface is checked, including the scalp, soles and nails. The examination involves the use of an optical device called a dermatoscope, which illuminates and magnifies the image of the upper layer of the skin, thus enabling the doctor to see structural and colour changes that are not visible to the naked eye. The shape, size, colour and border of the mole is checked. The examining physician also takes into account the patient’s family medical history, changes in the appearance of the mole, and any bleeding or growth of the mole. The patient should not arrive for the examination with a deep tan or sunburn,” explains MUDr. Lucie Polák, dermatologist at Canadian Medical, where preventive examinations and mole removal are commonly performed. Mudr. Polák further adds that skin cancer can be detected in early stages thanks to prevention.
One of the most malignant types of cancer
Malignant melanoma is a form of skin cancer that ranks among the most dangerous types of cancer. Its occurrence has long been increasing and it is the sixth most common form of cancer in the Czech Republic. A significant danger associated with melanoma is that it soon metastasises to other organs. Therefore, it is very difficult to therapeutically influence its development in later stages. If it is not removed in time, melanoma can be even be fatal.
“High-risk groups include patients with fair skin, with a large number of moles and those with a family history of skin cancer. Patients who spend a lot of time in the sun or visit tanning salons are also at increased risk. Every sunburn further significantly increases the risk of developing melanoma,” explains MUDr. Lucie Polák of Canadian Medical.
Removal of dangerous moles
Suspect moles are removed immediately. If the procedure is carried out rather for preventive or cosmetic reasons, it is better to avoid sun exposure, particularly in the summer months. The removal of a mole is carried out surgically; in low-risk cases, an ablative laser can also be used. Removal is also followed by a histological examination of the removed tissue, thanks to which the risk of melanoma can be definitively ruled out.
“*Depending on the method of removal, a scar the same size as the excised lesion (mole) remains on the skin. Following the procedure, it is necessary to limit sporting activities and visits to the swimming pool, sauna, etc. until the wound heals. After removal of the stitches, we recommend pressure massages of the scar and photoprotection. The procedure and subsequent care of the affected area is always individualised based on the patients needs, history of keloid scarring and skin tautness in the area of the wound,” says MUDr. Lucie Polák.