27 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Ask the expert: are the lesions on my face cancerous?

Skin cancer, which was in the past popularly known as the silent killer, is a deceptive dermatological issue

Dr Ikramullah Al Nasir
24 May 2016 | 10:35 am

I’m a 35-year-old fair-skinned male of Irish origin, living in the Gulf region for the past 10 years. I enjoy outdoor sports. Back home, my parents have been treated for certain types of non-melanoma skin cancers. Recently, I’ve noticed reddish lesions on my face and forearms. Are such spots not cancerous?

Keeping your family history in mind, the fact that you spend a lot of time outdoors is definitely alarming me about your higher future risk of having skin cancer.

Individuals with your skin type (Fitzpatrick Photo Skin Type 1) statistically have been found to have the highest 
risk of developing skin cancer, including malignant melanoma. A positive family history increases such risks even further. I suggest you see a specialist dermatologist at the earliest, and thereafter make it mandatory to continue with follow-up visits at least once a year, with or without any apparent skin complain.

Skin cancer, which was in the past popularly known as the silent killer, is a deceptive dermatological issue. It doesn’t always follow usual textbook rules. So in many cases, a skin cancer lesion can be deceptive enough that it makes it difficult for the doctor to make a correct and conclusive diagnosis.

Most of the non-melanoma skin cancers usually start as a reddish pimple-like lesion or even as tiny skin blemishes, so patients don’t take serious note of it. They usually go for a consultation only when the lesion has significantly grown in size or starts bleeding.

This delay in consultation makes the treatment relatively more complex. Similarly, in cases of malignant melanoma, most of the patients tend to ignore the early changes in the character of their moles, which in turn become precursors of developing malignant melanoma.

In your case, in addition to the above-mentioned blemishes and moles, you should also be carefully observing any unusual changes in your large-size freckles, which can develop a particular type of melanoma called lentigo maligna melanoma – and this very commonly remains under or misdiagnosed.

Avoiding excessive sun exposure, following standard sun-protection guidelines and changing your current lifestyle will help reduce your future risk of skin cancer/malignant melanoma to a significant level.

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Dr Ikramullah Al Nasir

Dr Ikramullah Al Nasir

is a specialist dermatologist and founder and president of Dermacare Skin Health Services.