Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Scary Mole? Or not...

I think we have done a good job educating the public about melanoma. Most people wear sunscreen religiously if they are going to be outside for an extended period, and more are remembering to wear hats. People are in tune to notice dark black moles, especially any that are growing or changing, and often know the ABC’s of melanoma. (Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, Evolving)

One side effect of all this education is that more people are coming in to ask about a mole on their body that they or their spouse has noticed. Frequently we have reassuring news for them, which is that the “mole” that they are afraid of is simply a seborrheic keratosis- SK for short.

SKs run in families, and tend to increase in number as we age. They are so common that most people will have at least one in their lifetime. SK's pop up most commonly on your chest, back, shoulders, face and abdomen. They are brown, black, or pale, raised and waxy or scaly, and look like they are stuck on, as though they can easily be scratched off. They can “itch and be ugly” (to quote my old dermatology teachers) but only very rarely become dangerous. If they are bothersome, a treatment with liquid nitrogen will typically make them go away. The bad news, however, is you are likely to make more. Check out the Mayo Clinic's pictures of SK's.

BOTTOM LINE: Do not hesitate to go to your family doctor or dermatologist and get your moles checked out- it's not all bad news, and many are easily treated if they bother you!

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