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How They’re Confused, Why They’re Different, When You Should Be Concerned

“People have learned the ABCDE rule of melanoma* so well that they apply it to any lesion that’s dark, growing and has irregular borders,” says Dr. Ringpfeil. “SK would seem to be in that category, but it’s not because its surface is different from the smooth surface of a pigment-producing growth, such as a mole or melanoma. Still, it’s important to bring to your doctor’s attention anything that is flat, ugly, fast-growing, and black or brown,” she says.

It’s wise to have all SKs checked out by your dermatologist, to learn whether you have seborrheic keratosis or skin cancer like melanoma. Your dermatologist will biopsy any seborrheic keratosis that looks suspicious. Usually, a dermatologist does the biopsy by simply shaving off the SK and sending it to a laboratory for evaluation. Sometimes, a more extensive excisional biopsy is performed. The results come back in a few days.

Keep an eye on any new growths yourself. If you’ve had SKs treated in the past, don’t assume that a new growth is a seborrheic keratosis. It should be checked out by a dermatologist to establish if it is seborrheic keratosis or skin cancer like melanoma or a pre-cancerous growth. A good practice is to set appointments for regular skin cancer checks, once or twice a year. Your dermatologist will advise you on how frequently to get checked based on your family history of skin cancer.

(photos of seborrheic keratosis)

A dermatologist would be likely to biopsy lesions like these that could be seborrheic keratosis or melanoma.

* The ABCDE rule of melanoma was developed by dermatologists to help people identify lesions on their skin that might be melanoma. When found early and treated, the cure rate for melanoma is close to 100%. However, melanoma can spread quickly to other parts of the body. When melanoma spreads, it can be deadly.

Skin lesions that should be brought to a doctor’s attention have:
A = Asymmetry: one half is unlike the other half.
B = Border: an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
C = Color: Is varied from one area to another; has shades of tan, brown or black, or is sometimes white, red, or blue.
D = Diameter: Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
E = Evolving: A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.

To learn more about skin cancer checks and the ABCDE rule click here.**

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