Skin Cancer & Moles

September 2, 2019

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

Fortunately, there is a lot that you can do to prevent skin cancer and catch it early when it is most treatable.

Skin Cancer & Moles

Skin cancer is the most common form of all cancers in the United States. People of all ages can be affected, but those who have spent substantial time outdoors or tanning are at higher risk.

There are three common forms of skin cancer:

Diagnosis & Treatment

At our dermatology clinic in Austin, Texas we are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer.  If you are concerned about a spot on your skin, the best way to put your mind at ease is to make an appointment. Not only can our team examine the spot that you have noticed, but with your consent, we can also perform a full skin exam to look for any other concerning lesions.

Dysplastic or Atypical Moles

Many patients are also diagnosed with dysplastic (atypical) moles.

Learn what this diagnosis means.

Tips for Prevention of Skin Cancer


Wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply every 1-2 hours when outdoors. Wear a broad-brimmed hat. Try to enjoy outdoor activities in the early morning or evening, when the sun is less intense.


Monitor your skin and moles monthly. When checking your skin, remember the ABCDEs of skin cancer:

  • Asymmetry: the two halves of the mole should match each other.
  • Borders: healthy moles have even, round, smooth borders.
  • Color: moles with several colors or shades may be dangerous.
  • Diameter: most skin cancers are bigger than a pencil eraser.
  • Evolution: any significant change in the mole is typically dangerous.

Call your dermatologist for any moles or spots that are growing, changing, bleeding, or of any concern to you.


Get checked for skin cancer by a board-certified dermatologist. How often you should get skin checks go depends on your medical history and skin type, and should be discussed with your doctor.

Learn more about skin cancer prevention and early detection.


  • What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?

    Basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, is a locally destructive type of skin cancer caused by the sun. It often presents as a slowly growing clear or bleeding bump on the skin or a non-healing sore on the sun-exposed parts of the body. It is not only seen in light-skinned people, but also in Asian and Hispanic patients. Fortunately, basal cell carcinomas metastasize in only rare cases.

    May appear as:

    • A small pimple-like bump that does not heal
    • A firm spot that is tender and bleeds easily
    • It may be asymptomatic
    • Usually a pearly light pink color, but many also have a little bit of gray or brown pigment

    Risk factors include:

    • Long-term sun exposure
    • Blistering sunburns in childhood
    • Prior history of basal cell carcinoma
    Treatment Options

    Basal cell carcinoma is best treated by surgical excision or by a technique called “Mohs surgery” performed by a specialized dermatologist. Other methods include “electrodesiccation and curettage” in which the cancer is removed by scraping and burning the surrounding tissue, as well as use of a topical chemotherapy cream for 6-8 weeks.

    • Use of regular sun protection including sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater
    • Sun protective clothing such as long sleeves and hats
    • Avoidance of the midday sun
    • Regular skin checks
  • What is Melanoma?

    Melanoma is the most dangerous common form of skin cancer, and can arise as a growing, darkening, changing, or bleeding mole. Although exposure to the sun increases the chance of getting melanoma, it can occur anywhere on the body. With regular skin checks and close communication with a dermatologist, patients with melanoma may have a greater than 80% cure rate.

    Spots that raise concern for a possible melanoma are often new moles that are:

    • Rapidly growing
    • Very dark in color
    • Contain more than one color
    • Have uneven borders, are particularly large
    • Bleed
    • Are generally changing

    About half of melanomas may arise in a pre-existing mole.  Many dermatologists recommend following the “ABCDEs of skin cancer” to identify a concerning mole:

    • – Asymmetry. Can you fold the mole in half and do the sides match up?
    • – Border.  Is the border of the mole smooth and round?
    • – Color. Is the mole a single uniform color?
    • – Diameter. Is the mole smaller than a pencil eraser?
    • – Evolution and everything else. Has the mole stayed the same over time? Does it cause you to concern for any other reason?

    If you answer “no” to one or more of these questions, it may be worth having your moles evaluated by a dermatologist.

    Melanoma occurs most commonly in men and women in their 50’s but is often diagnosed in younger and older patients as well, especially in those with a strong history of sun exposure or strong family history of melanoma. Women develop melanoma more often on the legs, and in men, it occurs more on the upper back.

    A few of the various types of melanoma include:

    Lentigo maligna

    This kind of melanoma is seen more in older patients with a great deal of sun damage, and may soon be the most common form of melanoma. It may be considered “safer” because it is seen only in the top layers of the skin.

    Superficial spreading melanoma

    This is usually considered the most common form of melanoma in adults. This type may appear in a pre-existing mole or may arise as a “new mole.”

    Acral melanoma

    This type of melanoma is most common in Asian and other dark-skinned populations, including African Americans. “Acral” indicates it occurs on the fingers or toes.  Bob Marley actually died of this kind of melanoma at the young age of 36.

    Although typically described as very dark brown, melanomas can actually be red, black, blue, or even white. It can also occur in the mouth, the back of the eye, or the genitalia.

    If you have a history of melanoma, it is important to see your dermatologist frequently as well as an eye doctor, dentist, and OB/GYN if you are female. You should also keep up to date on other routine cancer screenings.


    Melanoma of the skin is usually diagnosed with a skin biopsy in the dermatologist’s office. The biopsy specimen is then sent to a pathologist, who looks under a microscope for cancer cells. Melanoma treatment success and prognosis depend on the stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis. If caught early, or in stage I, there is a greater than 80% cure rate.

    Treatment Options

    After melanoma is diagnosed, skin surgery is performed to fully remove cancer. Lymph node biopsies may also be recommended, as well as referral to a cancer doctor. If the melanoma has metastasized, or spread, the cancer doctor will plan for chemotherapy or radiation.

  • What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

    Squamous Cell Carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, is often a scaly, growing lesion and is also usually on the sun-exposed skin.

    Risk factors include:
    • History of sun exposure (more common in sunny climates closer to the equator)
    • Patients who are “immunosuppressed” (such as after an organ transplant)
    • Smoking may further increase the risk, especially on the lips.
    • May develop from actinic keratoses
    May appear as:
    • Firm pink bumps on the hands
    • Tender, easily bleeding sores on the face

    Similar to basal cell carcinoma, SCC is diagnosed by a biopsy in the dermatologist’s office.  Squamous cell carcinoma may metastasize in 0.5-5% of cases, so very rarely. The risk of metastasis may be higher when found on the lower lip.

    • Use of regular sun protection including sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater
    • Sun protective clothing such as long sleeves and hats
    • Avoidance of the midday sun
    • Regular skin checks
    Treatment Options

    Squamous cell carcinoma is best treated surgically either in your dermatologist’s office or by a specialized Mohs surgeon. In some cases, recommended treatment includes a topical chemotherapy cream for 6-8 weeks, radiation, or specialized light therapy.

About U.S. Dermatology Partners Brodie Lane

At U.S. Dermatology Partners Brodie Lane, formerly Evans Dermatology, our team of medical experts provides the very latest in dermatology care for the entire family, along with state-of-the-art treatment for skin diseases. As the leading treatment center of psoriasis in Central Texas and the largest dermatology practice serving South Austin, Texas we focus on caring for your medical needs including acne, psoriasis, eczema, and skin cancer, while also providing high-quality cosmetic services. Our patients enjoy compassionate and efficient care in our comfortable offices.

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