CDC Clinics

Moles/Skin Cancers

What are the types of skin cancers?

There are three main types of skin cancers namely Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCC) and Melanomas.

Basal Cell Carcinomas

Basal Cell Carcinoma

These are the commonest skin cancers and are usually slow growing. They often look like a red spot or pimple, which does not heal. They may also bleed.

They can be treated by:

  1. Surgery
  2. Curettage and diathermy
  3. Cryotherapy
  4. Cream ( mainly superficial BCC)
  5. Photodynamic Therapy

Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCC)

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

These often look like scaly red lesions which may be thickened.  They can grow quickly and are often painful. They can spread and invade through the skin.

SCC are usually treated by surgical removal.

Melanoma

This is the most serious type of Skin cancer and can be fatal. It may look like

  1. Brown/black/red lesion which has irregular colour arrangement and irregular border.
  2. Brown, black or red lump in the skin, which has grown quickly.
Melanoma

The prognosis depends on the stage of growth and how quickly it is picked up. Early lesions that are thin have an excellent prognosis, while deeper lesions can spread quickly and lead to death.

The treatment of melanoma is surgery. The extent of the surgery depends on the depth of the lesion.
Regular follow up after treatment is essential.

What about sun spots and keratoses?

Sun spots and keratoses are pink scaly lesions, which in some cases may turn into Squamous Cell Carcinomas.

They can be treated by:

  1. Liquid Nitrogen
  2. Creams
  3. Photodynamic Therapy

Mole Treatments

Moles can be genetic and are often brought out by sun exposure. Most moles are innocent, but some are more unstable and may be associated with melanoma.

Mole Removal  - <i>Note: the treatment is the only change that has occurred between these images.</i>
Note: the treatment is the only change that has occurred between these images.

Which moles are potentially dangerous?

Moles which are irregular in border and colour (usually more than one colour) can be unstable. People with these moles (dysplastic) are at higher risk of melanoma.

Regular mole checks by an experienced doctor with a dermatoscope and mole scanning, will help to detect suspicious or changing lesions.

What is mole scanning?

Mole Treatment  - <i>Note: the treatment is the only change that has occurred between these images.</i>
Note: the treatment is the only change that has occurred between these images.

Mole scanning is the best method of following mole changes. It cannot by itself diagnose melanoma, but when combined with expert medical examination, can greatly help in the diagnosis of melanoma.

How often should moles be checked?

About every 6 months, or sooner if a mole looks like it is changing.

Can innocent moles be removed?

Innocent moles can be removed by:

Mole Treatment  - <i>Note: the treatment is the only change that has occurred between these images.</i>
Note: the treatment is the only change that has occurred between these images.
  1. Excision
  2. Shave excision
  3. Lasers

How do lasers work?

Some lasers eg Alexandrite are colour selective so will lighten the pigment within the mole. In most cases the mole will fade by over 60% and will become flatter. This will improve the appearance of the mole, but does not remove all the cells in the mole, and does not prevent melanoma.

Mole Treatment  - <i>Note: the treatment is the only change that has occurred between these images.</i>
Note: the treatment is the only change that has occurred between these images.

To achieve best results, more than one treatment may be needed.

Is it possible to treat other brown marks?

Other brown marks and freckles can be treated with Pulsed Light Therapy or Q Switched Nd:YAG.

Pulsed light treatmens are better for larger areas, while the Q switched YAG is better for smaller more discrete brown marks.

Moles - Laser Treatment

Some moles which are benign can be treated with Lasers. Laser treatment is not suitable for suspicious moles or skin cancer.

Which Moles can be treated with Lasers?

Moles which are benign and regular may be treated with lasers. The main purpose is to make the moles lighter and flatter.

In most cases, laser treatment will not completely remove the mole, but rather the mole will be less obvious.

Which lasers are suitable for treating moles?

The most commonly used laser is the long pulse Alexandrite Laser. It is suitable for dark flat or raised moles.

How many treatments are needed?

In most cases at least 2 treatments are needed, to achieve maximum lightening of the lesions.

What is involved in laser treatment of moles?

Usually a local anaesthetic cream or injections are used to numb the area. The laser works by being attracted to the dark colour within the mole. This leads to a colour change in the mole, which later produces a small scab. After about 10 days, the scab comes off by itself. This often leaves a pink mark which lasts for several weeks. In people with darker skin, the treated area may turn slightly brown. This can be treated with a fading cream.

Are there any risks associated with laser mole removal?

There can be risks associated with any procedure, although laser mole removal is generally very safe:

Possible complications include:

  1. Incomplete mole removal
  2. Depression in the skin
  3. Scarring
  4. Pigmentation
  5. Loss of pigmentation
  6. Failure to correctly diagnose a potentially malignant lesion

Mole Scanning

Mole scanning is the latest technology to monitor suspicious moles for changes. Mole scanning uses digital images to analyse moles for colour shape and other changes. These images are stored on a computer, so that a direct comparison can be made in 6 or 12 months.

How accurate is mole scanning?

Mole scanning cannot make a diagnosis, but can analyse the colour, shape and various other features, and do a probability analysis of the lesion being suspicious. It cannot tell you whether you have melanoma or skin cancer. An expert medical practitioner needs to interpret these changes.

However mole scanning has been shown to be the most useful tool in monitoring changes in moles. Changes may be significant and can alert to the diagnosis of melanoma.

Who needs Mole scanning?

Generally people with a large number of moles and/or abnormal (dysplastic) lesions are best monitored with mole scanning. People with a family history of melanoma or dysplastic moles can benefit from mole scanning. The doctor will advise you about this.

Does mole scanning pick up other skin cancers?

Mole scanning is not very useful for picking up other skin cancers. An expert medical practitioner with experience in skin cancer treatment is most likely able to detect other skin cancers.

What is the cost of Mole scanning?

Mole scanning is not covered by Medicare. The exact costing will depend on the number of moles to be scanned. The doctor will give you a quote on the cost.

What if a mole is suspicious?

If a mole is suspicious, it may need to be cut out and sent for pathology.