Screening for moles and skin cancer
Examination of moles, also called melanocytic naevi, is part of routine examinations for a dermatologist.
Most moles are benign and will remain harmless during lifetime, but every change in size, shape or colour, or a new mole developing in adult life should be considered as potentially dangerous. A trained dermatologist will usually make the distinction between a normal ‘benign’ mole and a potentially dangerous one or a melanoma by clinical examination.
In some cases a dermoscopic examination will provide additional information and avoid unnecessary surgical removals. But in any case of doubt it is always recommended to have a mole surgically removed and examined under the microscope to exclude a possible malignancy.
It does not only concern pigmented lesions. Any skin lesion like a bump, crust, spot or wound that is developping since months or years and does not respond to treatments should be examined to exclude a skin cancer.
Precancerous skin lesion: actinic keratosis
Actinic keratosis are very common and are considered precancerous. They appear mainly on sites repeatedly exposed to sun especially the face (nose, cheeks, forehead) and the backs of the hands in fair-skinned persons. They appear as yellow-grey thickened crusts, are quite adherent to the skin and grow back when they are scratched off.
Treatments may include cryotherapy or topical creams but recurrence is frequent. Currently the most effective treatment is PhotoDynamic Therapy (PDT).
If not treated they are at risk of developing into a skin cancer named a squamous cell carcinoma.