malignant mole signs

Know Your Moles

It’s the season of heat, sunshine, and unfortunately, sun burns. Here’s what to watch for when it comes to skin cancer.

What’s the Difference Between a Mole and a Melanoma?

Mole: Clusters of pigment-containing cells (melanocytes), usually harmless.
Melanoma: The least common, but most dangerous kind of skin cancer that can arise on its own or in pre-existing moles.

What Should I Watch Out For?

A new mole has popped up. Should you be worried? New, harmless moles actually appear all the time before the age of 25, so a new mole isn’t automatically a dangerous thing.

dangerous moleWhat should cause you to consider having the mole checked out is if it is changing; becoming darker, grow rapidly, change color, shape, or border. Typically it is a changing dark flat mole that is enlarging that could be concerning. Sometimes moles that used to be flat become raised. In other cases, moles begin to bleed, itch, or scale. These signs should send you to the dermatologist right away.

Melanomas can be hard to spot and if you see anything suspicious, come in and see Dr. Myers or another Dermatologist.

What Areas Are Most At Risk For Other Skin Cancers?

Certain areas of the skin are often exposed to the sun without protection. These areas include the tips of your ears, and areas around the eyes. Basal cell cancers, which are the most common and the least destructive of the skin cancers, often appear in those areas such as the face or sun exposed arms or upper back. (near the eyes, and sides of the nose). Squamous cell cancers are also common but less common than basal cell carcinomas. They also arise on sun exposed areas such as the face and even ears and lips. Basal cell or Squamous cell cancers often start as a non healing sore.

Who Is Most At Risk For Melanoma?

Anyone can get skin cancers. However, people most at risk of getting melanoma have these traits:

  • Fair skin
  • Fair hair color
  • Blue eyes
  • More than 20 moles
  • Sunburned as a child
  • Family member with melanoma

If this describes you, don’t get burned, and do skin checks a couple times a year by yourself or with the help of a significant other.

How Can I Prevent UV Damage As I Travel?

As families head out on trips, it’s important to take the right precautions against sun damage. Sunburn in childhood is a risk factor for skin cancer later in life, so wear hats and protect babies and children against sunburn.

Midday, higher altitude, and being near to the equator should lead to taking more precaution. Lastly, remember that sunscreen usually takes about 15 minutes to be absorbed into the skin. Remember to reapply often if swimming or sweating.

cold sore treatment

What Causes Cold Sores?

cold soreCold sores (Herpes Labialis) are a common condition that are caused by an infection with, or later with the reactivation of the herpes simplex virus. Commonly located on the lips, (occasionally not on the lip, but in the area around). Cold sores occur in the same location, with intense ones leaving scars. Symptoms include:

  • Initially a burning/tingling sensation that becomes more painful as the cold sore develops
  • Painful red blisters
  • Occasionally a low grade fever, or feeling fatigued

The virus is spread via contact with infected secretions of saliva. The virus is more contagious when there is an active cold sore. Once a person has the virus it remains in a latent or dormant state within a nerve. It is inactive until a trigger allows it to resurface. Common triggers include:

  • Sun or wind burn
  • Accidental “biting” or scratching of the lip
  • Other infections that weaken the immune system and allow virus to “break through”
  • Emotional or physical stressors
  • Procedures performed on the face (chemical peels, laser treatment, microdermabrasion, micro needling, fillers, blue light etc.)

Cold Sore Treatments

The best way to treat a cold sore is to start taking an antiviral pill when you FIRST FEEL the symptoms coming on. Oral treatment is by far the most effective way to treat cold sores (leagues more effective than topical creams, Lysine or Abreva). Although much less potent, there are topical products available that can help diminish symptoms. A summary of common treatments:

  • Valacyclovir (Valtrex): Take 2 (1 gram) tablets at first sign of cold sore. Repeat (take 2 pills) in 12 hours and that’s it! If the medicine is taken early enough(at the first sign of any stinging, burning feeling) patients typically won’t even get a cold sore. Occasionally an additional dose of 2 (1 gram) tablets may be taken after another 12 hour (So 6 grams total over 24 hours) if the cold sore has already broken out.
  • Acyclovir (Zovirax) pills are another very effective oral medication similar to Valacyclovir
  • Prescription creams are stronger than OTC creams and include: acyclovir cream (Zovirax), Penciclovir (Denavir), or Xerese (a combination of hydrocortisone and acyclovir cream). Apply to the cold sore 5 x a day for 5 days.
  • Oral lysine, a popular supplement, and Abreva (Docosanol) an non prescription solution are both significantly weaker than prescription medicine, but each may decrease symptoms by a day or so.
Ganglion cysts

Cyst Or Something More Serious?

Bumps and lumps under the skin are pretty common, and are generally harmless, but they can be worrisome. Often the scariest question people ask themselves is whether or not that lump is a cancerous tumor.

More often than not, that lump is just a cyst. Most of us are pretty familiar with the term “cyst,” but many don’t really know what a cyst is. So what is the difference between a cyst and a tumor?

Cysts

Skin cysts are sac-like growths that grow in the deeper layers of the skin. They come in many varieties, and can show up in many different places. Some may be familiar with the cysts that can form from acne. These are large, inflamed lumps that are painful. These are generally filled with pus.

But cysts on the skin typically aren’t painful. Other cyst types are filled with matter of more solid consistency. They can even be filled with air. When cysts form under the skin, making a lump, they are often called sebaceous cysts or epidermoid cysts. Epidermoid cysts are generally filled with fluid, and are 1-5 centimeters wide. They aren’t painful, unless there is an infection. Sebaceous cysts are less common, and contain oil while other cyst varieties do not. Pilar cysts are another type of cyst that can form on the skin’s surface. These often form on the scalp.

Ganglion cysts are also small, round and painless. They often form on the tendons or joints of wrists and hands.

And cysts don’t just form on near the surface of the skin. They can also form in the liver, kidneys, breast and ovaries. Cysts are generally harmless, even when they are found internally.

Tumor

A tumor, on the other hand, is an abnormal mass of tissue or swelling, not a sac that contains liquid. Sometimes tumors cause no symptoms. Other times they can be associated with chills, fatigue, fever and other symptoms. Cancer generally has many other negative health effects besides a lump of tissue. Furthermore, cancerous tumors tend to grow, as cancer is the abnormal growth of cells.

Solid, cancerous tumors come in many different types, like sarcomas, carcinomas, and lymphomas. Certain types of eye cancer have solid tumors. Others form near the kidneys. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a soft tissue tumor than can arise almost anywhere on the body. Bone cancer and hepatoblastoma (a liver tumor) are other solid tumors. Not all cancers have solid tumors (blood cancer, for example).

Even if you are diagnosed with a tumor, it may be benign, meaning it is noncancerous. But benign tumors can still result in negative symptoms.

So What Should I Do?

Irregular growths should always send you to the doctor. Simple tests can quickly determine any risks there might be. The peace of mind knowing that you are not in danger is very important. Even if it isn’t cancerous, there are simple options for removal of epidermoid cysts (cysts just underneath the skin).

It is a bad idea to try to “pop” an epidermal, sebaceous or pilar cyst. Infection can spread if the cyst ruptures beneath the skin. The cyst’s sac may also be left behind, and could fill again. Cysts often go away over time. If it is uncomfortable or you don’t like it’s appearance, ask Dr. Myers about removal options.

If you have any questions at all, Dr. Myers recommends seeing a dermatologist. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t delay in getting a professional opinion.