Moles and Pigmented Lesions
There are a variety of pigmented skin lesions. Moles and freckles are a normal feature of paler skin types, pigmented lesions develop as an aging change of the skin, and some skin cancers are pigmented.
Normal moles are typically brown, flat, round and up to 5mm in diameter. Moles appear and grow slowly throughout our lives. Benign moles do not cause symptoms, for example itching or bleeding.
Rarely moles can develop into a type of skin cancer called melanoma, or a 'new' pigmented lesion may appear and be of concern.
Moles that should be checked
There are certain features of a pigmented lesion that may be sinister:
- Bleeding or ulceration
- Rapid growth (diameter or raised above the skin)
- Change in colour (darker)
If you are worried about a mole, it should be checked by a specialist.
In most cases it is possible to reassure you about a mole after carefully examining it. In some cases, biopsy may be required. Biopsy can be done in the minor treatment room at my Chelsea Outpatient Centre and Syon BMI clinics.
A biopsy involves taking a sample of the lesion (sometimes the whole lesion is removed), and this is sent to the pathologist who analyses it. Results usually take 3-4 days.
Age spots (seborrhoeic keratosis)
Brown, slightly crusty or waxy looking age spots are very common, they occur from age 50 onwards. They are completely benign (non-cancerous) and there is no risk of cancerous change. Seborrhoeic keratosis are an aging change of the skin, not related to sun exposure. These lesions occur mostly on the face and trunk, and are up to 2-3cm across, they grow slowly and are frequently multiple. Small pieces may flake off, and if caught when brushing hair, or on clothing, sometimes bleed.
Troublesome seborrhoeic keratoses are removed by curettage (scraping the lesion away with a special instrument). This leaves a raw wound; antibiotic ointment is applied daily, and the area heals well in 7-10 days. Unfortunately there is no treatment that can prevent these lesions from developing.
Early age spots on the hands are suitable for treatment with prescription creams and I can provide this treatment.