It is very important to have any suspicious new and pre-existing moles or skin growths checked out by a dermatologist in a timely fashion. However, it’s also important to understand that suspicious-appearing growth often turn out to be either benign, or a lesser form of skin cancer, than the potentially lethal melanoma.
This blog post focuses on 5 different forms of black skin growths that are not melanoma.
While its name may sound frightening, these waxy-textured skin growths are common in people who are middle-aged or older. They most often appear on the head and neck, but they can develop in any are except the palms and soles of the feet.
Nevi is just the medical term for the common mole. These most-often benign, isolated moles range from smooth to slightly elevated. They usually develop on the head, neck, back, palms and soles.
Black Skin Tags
Skin tags are those annoying (yet perfectly harmless) soft, mushroom-shaped protuberances that are often found on the neck or armpits. Nearly all of them will match your skin’s hue; but some change to black, and a few are black from the very start of development.
If a skin tag turns black, it’s due to a lack of oxygen and it will usually fall off within a week or two. While there are many ways to successfully deal with skin tags, some people have them removed with liquid nitrogen or tie them off with a strand of thread.
Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra (DPN)
DPN is another quite common condition. It consists of multiple small, benign skin lesions visible on the face that begin most often in puberty, and predominantly affect dark skin-toned individuals.
Pigmented Basal Cell Carcinoma (PBCC)
As with Seborrheic Keratosis, Basal Cell Carcinoma sounds much worse than it actually is. It rarely, if ever, metastasizes (spreads to other areas of the body). PBCC can affect both light and dark-skinned individuals.
Please remember (and also let others know) that skin conditions, whether cancerous or not, do not discriminate; they can impact anyone of any skin color. Unfortunately for skin cancer, and positively for us, public education combined with the efforts of medical science will ultimately be its downfall.
The clock is ticking on melanoma; it’s only a matter of time.
Non-Melanoma Black Skin Growths
*Additional source article credits: American Academy of Dermatology, DermNetNZ, NCBI.gov
Melanoma is the worst form of skin cancer, but skin cancer’s most common form is Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). Each year, there are more new cases of BCC diagnosed than of all other cancers combined. Unlike advanced melanoma, this disease is rarely fatal. However, it can cause extensive skin damage and should be taken seriously.
BCC is similar to an iceberg, in that the majority of it often resides below the surface. But what is visible is not pretty, neither literally or figuratively. If left untreated, BCC may lead to surgery that results in permanent disfigurement.
Warning: Signals Ahead
Fortunately for us, in general skin cancer has an Achilles heel that many other diseases don’t have. It (usually) announces its arrival visually while there’s still time to do something about it.
Regarding BCC, be wary of waxy, red, pink, or flesh-colored nodules (sometimes cratered) or flat growths that bleed, itch and/or don’t heal. If any of these are discovered during one of your monthly skin self-exams, visit a dermatologist as soon as possible.
These are 2 examples of BCC:
The Usual Suspect
As with the majority of skin-related damage and cancers, the sun and its UV (ultraviolet) rays are mostly to blame for BCC. (Tanning beds are another significant source of skin cancer). The nose is the most sun-exposed area of the face and is among the most common sites of BCC.
People with light complexions have a greater risk of developing BCC. But anyone of any skin-tone should take protective measures against UV rays. Although BCC can occur at any age, it’s most common in people who are over 40. It’s also more prevalent in those who live in sunny or high-altitude regions. Though it is important to keep in mind that UV ray-related skin damage occurs in every climate, and during all types of weather.
The Correct Treatment
Once BCC is diagnosed, there are multiple treatment options available. A dermatologist will choose the one best-suited to help a given patient. Shave biopsy is common. And if BCC has developed in a cosmetically-sensitive area, such as the face, Moh’s microsurgery is often employed.
The goal of this procedure is to remove as much of the BCC as possible while saving the healthy tissue around it. Layers of skin are removed one at a time and examined under a microscope until all the cancer is gone. This reduces the chance of needing future treatments or surgery.
Playing it Safe
The best way to avoid BCC is by practicing the same techniques you already use to protect yourself against other skin cancers and melanoma. These include wearing (and frequently re-applying) sunscreen while outdoors or driving, and wearing long sleeves, pants and broad-brimmed hats. Whenever possible, try to avoid being outdoors during the sun’s peak hours between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
*Additional source articles: DermNetNZ.org