If you’ve noticed that a mole has been fading, melanoma may come to mind, since we are warned that a “changing mole” can mean cancer.
This article is based upon my fading mole and what the dermatologist and biopsy report said. I had been examining my skin once a month for quite some time, and this included my back, which required a handheld mirror with the bathroom mirror as I sat on the sink. It was an awkward position.
I was routinely aware of a 3 mm (my visual estimation) mole, medium-dark brown, on my back. Close-up views of my back were impossible, but I was very familiar with the personality of every spot.
One day I was looking at the hair behind my neck—this wasn’t a skin exam—but my peripheral vision noticed that the 3 mm mole had notably faded since last time I viewed it (25 days prior). It was so much lighter. I thought, “What the f---!” Melanoma came to mind.
Not only was the mole faded, but the configuration of coloring was altered. Oddly, the shape and size were the same. Within minutes of this discovery, I was on the phone making a dermatologist appointment.
Then I went mad on the Internet and discovered only ONE cause of a fading mole—and it did NOT apply to me! Often in adolescents and teens, a mole (nevus) will start fading. This is called halo nevus.
Eventually the spot disappears. Halo nevus is benign, but while the mole fades, a whitish halo develops around it, and remains for a while after the nevus disappears.
I had no halo! In my mind, that left only one explanation: melanoma. Eight days later the dermatologist’s first words, upon examining it, were: “It doesn’t look worrisome.”
I asked what could make it change so fast. She replied, “I don’t think it’s a mole. It looks like a seborrheic keratosis.”
To play safe I had her remove the entire lesion. The biopsy report came in three days later: It was a seborrheic keratosis. An SK is a benign skin barnacle that can never turn into melanoma.
The take-home message is this: If you discover a mole that’s fading or changing, it may actually be a seborrheic keratosis. An SK that cannot be seen close up (such as one on the back or back of the neck) can easily pass as a typical nevus. Don’t guess and wonder; see a dermatologist.