Noticing something different when you look in the mirror? Skin discolorations can be harmless or they can be a sign of something more serious. Columbia St. Mary’s dermatologists are your resource when skin discolorations become a concern.
Here are some of the most familiar skin discolorations:
Moles (also known as nevi) are common, non-cancerous skin growths that occur when skin’s pigment cells cluster together. Usually brown or black, moles can develop anywhere on the body and can either be present at birth or develop later in life. While the majority of moles are benign, if you notice any changes to a mole’s color, size, shape, or itch and/or bleed, it’s important to have it checked by a dermatologist immediately, as that could be a sign of skin cancer.
Freckles are small brown spots most commonly found on the face, arms and shoulders. Extremely common, especially in people with fair skin and light hair, freckles pose no health risk.
A skin tag is a small, benign flap of skin, most often seen on the neck and underarms. While skin tags usually don’t have any complications or health risks, if they are symptomatic, itch or get caught on your clothing or jewelry, they can be safely cut, frozen or burned off by a dermatologist.
If you have a mole or skin growth that concerns you, the “ABCDE” system is a handy guide to help determine if it’s cause for concern:
Asymmetry: One half doesn't match the other half.
Border irregularity: The edges are uneven, ragged or blurred.
Color: The color is not uniform throughout or there are many colors within the same growth or spot.
Diameter: The mole is larger than 1/4 inch (6mm; about the size of a pencil eraser).
Evolution: There is a change in the size, shape, symptoms (such as itching, tenderness or bleeding), or color.