What is a Precancerous Growth?
A precancerous growth refers to a new mole or lesion on the skin that is not cancer but could develop into cancer if it is not dealt with soon. Many times, cases of melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma begin as precancerous growths. Identifying and diagnosing a precancerous growth can help with early detection and diagnosis of skin cancer.
The team at our Fullerton, CA cosmetic dermatology center would like to cover some of the basics about precancerous growths, including common types, warning signs, and how they are examined in order to prevent skin cancer.
Types of Precanerous Growths
Precancerous growths on the skin can come in many different forms, from strange bumps to blotches and spots. Some of the most common precancerous growths include:
- Moles (Nevus) - Moles are most common in children and young adults, but they are very rare among adults. They could be the early sign of skin cancer.
- Atypical Moles (Dysplastic Nevi) - These moles are generally larger than normal moles and different in shape.
- Actinic Keratosis (Solar Keratosis) - These small, scaly patches occur due to excessive sun exposure. They are often found on the hands, neck, or head.
- Actinic Cheilitis (Farmer's Lip) - These precancerous growths often occur on or around the lips.
- Cutaneous Horns - These funnel-shaped growths are comprised of compacted keratin, and are often caused by excessive sun exposure.
Warning Signs of Potential Skin Cancer
There are a few common signs of a dangerous precancerous growth, which you can remember as the ABCDEs:
- Asymmetry - Moles or skin growths that are asymmetrical are not normal.
- Borders - A mole with a discolored, irregular border around it is not normal.
- Color - When moles are not uniform in color, they may be the sign of a problem. Note any lightening or darkening of existing moles as well.
- Diameter - Moles that grow to have a diameter greater than a pencil eraser should be checked out.
- Evolution - Any changes in growth or color and any bleeding or irritation should warrant a professional opinion.
An Exam of Abnormal Lesions
If you notice any abnormal lesions or moles on your body, it is a good idea to speak with your doctor or with your dermatologist. They can closely examine the mole and ask questions about when you noticed it develop.
Biopsy of an Abnormal Lesion
If your doctor suspects the growth may be precancerous or cancerous, they can take a biopsy. This is a small sample of the tissue from the mole or lesion to be examined in the lab. The lab work can determine if cancerous cells are present and what type of cancer a patient has.
What If I am Diagnosed with Skin Cancer?
If the mole or growth is cancerous, a treatment plan can be developed to meet your needs. Sometimes the problem can be addressed through non-surgical photodynamic therapy. Other times, minor surgery may be required. More aggressive cancer treatment may be considered depending on the condition of the patient.
Early Detection Is Always Key
As with any cancer, early detection is always best. The sooner the cancer can be diagnosed, the better the chances of eradicating the cancerous cells entirely. Remember your ABCDEs and discuss anything that seems amiss with your doctor.
Learn More About Diagnosing Skin Cancer
For more information about diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer, be sure to contact the team at Full Spectrum Dermatology. We look forward to your visit and discussing these matters and your wellness in greater detail.