Skin cancer ‘red flag’ signs on moles that could be an early melanoma

dr. Mohit Agarwal

Any abnormal malignant growth of the skin cells leads to the development of skin cancer. Skin cancer is of three types: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Skin cancer is rare and its incidence is less than 1 percent of all cancers diagnosed. Worldwide basal cell carcinoma is the most common subtype, but squamous cell carcinoma predominates in India. The incidence of skin cancer is variable in India with a maximum number of cases from the northeastern states and the northern states of Indians who have darker skin due to melanin, which is protective against the development of skin cancer.

Many cases of skin cancer are still reported in India. Several factors, such as increased exposure to ultraviolet B in the northeastern states and increases in arsenic in water bodies of northern states, have been attributed to this. The prognosis of skin cancer depends on the stage of its presentation, which is why it is necessary to diagnose it at an early stage.

Melanoma arises from pigment-containing cells known as melanocytes. Melanoma can appear in both the external and internal parts of the body, but they are most common in the sun-exposed areas of the body. Mole is usually normally present in most people. The number of moles in a person can vary from 10-40. Normal moles have clear boundaries of a uniform color and are usually less than a quarter inch in size. Risk factors for developing melanoma include increased susceptibility to sunburn, fair skin, immunosuppression for any reason, and overexposure to ultraviolet-violet radiation, especially in geographic areas near the equator.

Moles that are malignant or prone to developing cancer have special features that can be remembered as ABCDE

A stands for symmetry in shape.

B is for irregular edges.

C means variegated appearance – uneven distribution of colors

D for a diameter of a mole greater than a quarter inch.

E for meaning development through changes in the appearance of a mole-like increase or decrease in size, shape, color, itching, or bleeding.

One should visit a doctor if he or she notices any of the above points. Preventive measures that can be taken to protect against skin cancer include wearing protective clothing to reduce skin exposure to the sun, wearing sunscreens and lotions, and avoiding direct sun exposure during the afternoon period.

Prevention is better than cure. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment increase the chances of a cure.

(The author is the Director and Head of Unit, Medical Oncology, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh. Opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of

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