Top 6 Mimickers of Skin Cancer

herpes oral cold sore blisters on the lips- herpes simplexDespite the increases in public awareness and education about protecting our skin, patients are often surprised when they are told they have skin cancer. “In many cases, patients have long-standing changes in their skin that they believe are benign lesions,” says Dr. Adam Mamelak, board-certified dermatologist and skin cancer specialist in Austin, Texas. “These imitators can continue to grow and develop if they are not detected and treated.”

Here are the top 6 mimickers of skin cancer they can be seen on the body:

  • Cold Sore – these viral infections around the lip can often present as recurrent non-healing sores. “Spots on the skin that crust and breakdown, heal up and then open again is one of the worrisome signs we look for in skin cancers,” says Dr. Mamelak.
  • Acne – While acne is a disease often associated with youth, a significant portion of people will continue to get breakouts in their 30s, 40s, 50s and even later in life. An acne bump that does not resolve after a number of weeks should be evaluated by a physician. Basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, often develop like red, swollen acne-like lesions.
  • Seborrheic Keratosis – These benign warty changes appear on the skin over time. Some of these lesions can be dark and even multicolored, strongly resembling melanoma skin cancer.
  • Scars – Patients will often complain of scars on the skin but cannot remember any trauma to the area. “In general, scars come from cutting the skin or damage to the skin,” says Dr. Mamelak.  “If you develop a spontaneous scar, or if a long-standing scar starts to change in anyway – breakdown, bleed or get a new bump – it should be checked out.”
  • Chondrodermatitis Nodularis Helicis – “It’s an earful!” These nonhealing erosions on the ear are actually pressure sores that develop over the cartilage. “It’s usually from sleeping or constant pressure against the area that breaks down the overlying skin,” says Dr. Mamelak. Patients often complains of tenderness on the area or blood on their pillowcase.
  • Eczema – these red, scaly and often itchy patches of skin can be stubborn, especially in the winter time when the weather is cool and dry. “If you treat your eczema with the moisturizer or steroid cream and it does not resolve, it should be checked out.” Dr. Mamelak notes that squamous cell carcinoma and Bowen’s disease can often first appear similar to eczema patches on the skin.

dr-mamelak“I’m always happier to tell patients that it’s nothing to worry about, than why didn’t you come in sooner,” says Dr. Mamelak. While benign lesions can look like skin cancer, skin cancer can also look like normal skin changes.

Contact Us

Dr. Mamelak sees and treats patients at Sanova Dermatology and the Austin Mohs Surgery Center.  If you have a spot on your skin that is changing, not resolving, or behaving in a strange fashion, please contact us to set up your evaluation today.


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