1/22/12

Has Your Brown Mole Turned Red: Melanoma or Benign?

If your brown mole is looking kind of red lately and you fear melanoma, here’s important information. 
Melanoma can change the color of a mole (most normal are brown), and red can be one of those colors.

However, a historically brown mole that suddenly takes on a reddish tinge is not always melanoma. One day I noticed that a tiny spot on my leg went from brown to brownish-red in a matter of days. I also had recently discovered the 1-millimeter spot as new, and that alone had me quite concerned.

It now looked different than when I first discovered it: slightly enlarged with a reddish tinge. It had definitely changed over three days (I had previously been viewing it a few times a week because it was newly discovered). 

I was thinking, what, other than melanoma, could turn a brown mole red? I had no recollection of irritating it by scratching in that area, or bumping that area.

Several days later the spot no longer appeared enlarged, but was still reddish brown. I had the entire spot removed for a biopsy. When in doubt, see a dermatologist for a biopsy!

The dermatologist’s nurse called with the biopsy results: “It’s a lentigo simplex. That means it’s benign.” She then added, “A benign sun spot.”

A lentigo is not a mole, but can look so much like one that even a dermatologist can’t tell one way or the other, even while looking through a handheld dermoscope; only a pathologist can make the distinction.

The “mole” went from brown to red due to some unknown irritation, said the nurse; the “simplex” in the pathology report meant irritation—perhaps from being rubbed or scratched, maybe in my sleep.

My dermatologist said that a lentigo, though a sun spot, can actually turn into melanoma. If you have a spot on your skin that’s normally brown, and it begins turning red, see a dermatologist just to play safe.
Sources:
mayoclinic.com/health/melanoma/DS00439
cdc.gov/cancer/skin/statistics/race.htm

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