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Skin Cancer Doesn’t Just Begin With Moles

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Moles are not the only places where dangerous melanoma can develop, a new study shows.

A review of 38 previous medical studies examined over 20,000 melanomas and found that only 29% of skin cancers began in moles that were already present, while 71% came from new lesions on the skin, CBS News reports.

Dr. Riccardo Pampena of the dermatology and skin cancer unit at Arcispedale Santa Maria Nuova, Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico at Reggio Emilia in Italy said,

Patients and physicians should be aware that skin without moles is more at risk than moles to develop a melanoma.

Melanomas that develop out of nowhere also tend to be more aggressive than melanomas that stem from moles, which suggests that the two kinds of cancer might be different, Pampena said.

Dermatologists should still conduct skin examinations and follow up on moles that seem suspicious, Pampena emphasized. “Not only moles, but the whole-body surface should be monitored by patients and physicians.”

Other dermatologists agree. Dr. Victoria Sharon of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, said, “Although it is important to survey one’s existing moles, it is equally important to examine your skin for new suspicious lesions.”

Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, said, “Whether melanoma arises from existing moles has been an area of controversy. Some people say that existing moles are like any other skin and are not precancerous, but we do know that melanomas can arise in pre-existing moles.”

The best way to determine if a patient has skin cancer is to take a look at the skin. But it’s easy for people to misunderstand what they’re looking for, and what they’re looking at. Day said, “Patients are looking for raised moles and other things that, to a dermatologist, are not important. As a dermatologist, I have criteria that I use to evaluate pre-existing or new brown spots to determine if they’re something that has existed since childhood and are fine or if they are new and I need to do something about it.”

The study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

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