Not All Spots Are Created Equal
Sponsored By ESKATA |
When it comes to spots on the skin, it can be tough to determine what is what and which, if any, may be harmful to your health. Many spots may look alike, but all spots are not created equal—some are developed during exposure to the sun, while others are determined by genetics.
Three spots in particular, including seborrheic keratoses, liver spots, and moles, all may resemble each other in size, shape, and color, but each is developed (and can be removed) in different ways. Pasadena, CA dermatologist Sara Gaspard MD, gave us the low-down on ways to identify, and treat, these types of spots.
1. Seborrheic keratoses
An overgrowth of skin that rests superficially, a seborrheic keratosis (or SK) typically appears as a “waxy” or “scaly” bump and is often dark in color. “Despite their shade, SKs don’t typically contain melanocytes and pose no risk of transformation into cancer,” says Dr. Gaspard.
“These types of spots will usually start to appear in one’s late 30s and on, and the chance of developing an SK depends mostly on genetics,” she explains. Traditionally, SKs are removed with cryotherapy, where liquid nitrogen breaks up the cells in the lesion and causes them to slough off. The removal of SKs is slowly changing, though, as new treatments come out into the market. A recent product released into the market called ESKATA® (hydrogen peroxide) topical solution, 40% (w/w), is the only FDA-approved, topical treatment that can treat raised SKs. ESKATA contains 40% hydrogen peroxide and is a soft-tip, pen-like applicator that can be applied directly to the raised SK.
2. Liver spots
Lentigines, or commonly referred to as “liver spots,” are caused by chronic sun exposure and “have nothing to do with the health of your liver,” says Dr. Gaspard. Liver spots are flat brown lesions, uniform in color, and usually develop in areas where one is most exposed to the sun, including the face, décolletage, shoulders, and hands.
“Most liver spots are considered benign, containing cells called melanocytes, which produces pigmentation of the skin,” she explains. Although the majority of liver spots are non-cancerous, “there is a potential for one of the cells to go awry and to produce a form of skin cancer called lentigo maligna,” she warns.
Benign liver spots can be treated multiple ways, including liquid nitrogen and electrocautery, which destroys growths using heat. For a less invasive approach, “liver spots can be treated using chemical peels, lasers, lightening creams, or photo facials, too,” says Gaspard.
Moles are a complex entity made up entirely of melanocytes. They begin to appear in childhood and can continue to develop and change until one reaches their mid 20s. Usually, moles develop because of one’s genetic makeup, and can then be compounded by the effects of the sun. “You can usually find moles on the most sun-exposed areas of the body,” says Gaspard.
Gaspard notes that identifying moles can be challenging, because they come in many different forms and structures. They can be flat brown spots or raised, brown or flesh-colored bumps. “Because these lesions are so varied and have the potential to develop into cancer, it’s best to have them evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist,” advises Gaspard. “The only way to definitively remove a mole is through a biopsy or excision, where they have to be cut out of the skin,” she says.
If you identify a spot, it is best to consult with a dermatologist or healthcare provider.
ESKATA is not approved for moles or liver spots.