Why Brown Spots Matter: from a Board-certified Dermatologist
We’re well into the sunny Summer, so from my perspective of a Board-certified Dermatologist Memphis TN, let me share some important pointers on why brown spots matter.
Fact number one: Of the three main types of skin cancer, which are Basal Cell Skin Cancer, Squamous Cell Skin Cancer, and Melanoma, Melanoma is the most dangerous, because it kills one American about every 54 minutes, a number that unfortunately goes up, not down, year by year. In fact, about 75,000 Americans will be diagnosed with invasive Melanoma this year, meaning that this type of cancer or malignancy is a really big health threat.
The patient below has a Melanoma on his forehead, with a closeup image to follow:
A closeup of this Melanoma:
Melanoma often starts out as a brown spot in the skin – often with certain tell-tale features, such as different shades of brown or black within itself. We Dermatologists use the A, B, C, D, E warning signs in determining whether we need to remove a brown spot to be checked by the lab, a rule of thumb originally described by Dr. Al Kopf and Dr. Darel Rigel of New York University:
A stands for asymmetry: one half doesn’t match the other half.
B stands for an irregular border, perhaps jagged like the coast of Maine, rather than smooth, like the coast of Florida.
C stands for a color that’s dark, or changing, or our of step with the person’s other moles. Or different shades of brown, black, or gray within the lesion.
D stands for a diameter or distance across the moles that’s enlarging, particularly if it gets larger than the head of a number 2 eraser.
E stands for an evolving or changing lesion.
Fact number two: there are many other causes of brown spots in the skin, including Freckles (Ephelides), Benign Keratoses, and certain types of Moles (Nevocellular Nevi). Board-certified Dermatologists can often inspect such lesions to help to determine whether they need to be removed (biopsied), to be sent in to a Dermato-pathologist to be checked:
Freckles are generally not dangerous, but there’s a type of lesion called a Lentigo Maligna, which is a precursor to a type of Melanoma. So if you’re prone to freckles, it’s good to get checked by a Dermatologist.
The patient below has a benign lesion called a Seborrheic Keratosis on his temple - which can be treated with Liquid Nitrogen (Cryotherapy) if it's itchy, changing, or bleeding.
Benign Keratoses can sometimes be what’s called pre-cancerous, meaning that down the road, they may turn into Squamous Cell Skin Cancer. These are called Actinic Keratoses or Solar Keratoses. Another type – Seborrheic Keratoses – are significant if they enlarge and start to bleed or scab. So if you or a family member has a brown spot, especially one that’s enlarging, get a Dermatologic check-up. If we’re pretty sure that the lesion is benign, we can often treat it with Liquid Nitrogen (Cryotherapy).
Certain moles – called Dysplastic Nevi or Atypical Moles – definitely merit supervision by a Dermatologist. These are often raised in the center and flat at the edges, and often particularly dark in color. Atypical moles are significant because they can sometimes later become Melanoma.
My own Dermatology practice since 1993 is with Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates, at 8143 Walnut Grove, in Cordova TN. So if you need a Dermatologist Memphis, Dermatologist Germantown, Dermatologist Cordova, or Dermatologist Bartlett, we’re nearby. And there are over 12,700 Dermatologists in the U.S. You can find one of us close to you by going to the American Academy of Dermatology’s ‘Find a Dermatologist’ tab, at AAD.org. Just plug in your zip code, and voila, you’ll have a list near you. So go on a “mole patrol” of your family, at least once a month. It might just save a life!