What is a birthmark
Birthmarks: Origin and Causes
A birthmark occurs when a particularly large number of pigment-forming cells (melanocytes) that form the skin pigment accumulate in one place. Because of this, most moles are brown or black in color. However, birthmarks can also be reddish or bluish in color. There are also the so-called nevus cells, which are closely related to melanocytes and can also form birthmarks or moles.
Birthmarks can either be congenital or develop in the course of life. Genetically conditioned especially people with very fair skin tend to develop many birthmarks. However, recent studies indicate that the number of birthmarks is not only determined by genes. In addition, the number of hours that you spend as a child and adolescent plays a major role unprotected in the sun has spent a crucial role.
Owing to hormonal influences More birthmarks can also develop during pregnancy. In addition, it is particularly common during this time that benign marks develop into malignant spots. Therefore, pregnant women should check their moles very carefully.
Birthmarks and skin cancer
Birthmarks in themselves are benign - however, some birthmarks can develop into skin cancer. Males whose Size, shape or color change. Such birthmarks are called a dysplastic nevus. In contrast to the other birthmarks, atypical cells multiply with them. A dysplastic nevus can - but does not have to - represent the preliminary stage of black skin cancer (malignant melanoma).
As particularly at risk apply to people who have a large number of moles (more than 40) or irregularly shaped moles. You have an up to 15 times higher risk of developing skin cancer. In addition, skin cancer cases in close relatives also significantly increase the risk of developing the disease yourself.
Recognizing Dangerous Birthmarks: The ABCDE Rule
To get a first impression of whether a birthmark could be dangerous, you can examine your birthmarks according to the ABCDE rule.
- A: Asymmetry (spots that are not evenly round or oval are considered noticeable.)
- B: Boundary (The boundary of the mole should be sharp. If the boundary is blurred, however, caution is advised.)
- C: Color (If the mole has several shades, it should be checked by a dermatologist.)
- D: Diameter (birthmarks larger than five millimeters should be observed.)
- E: Development (Special attention should be paid to birthmarks that change in one of the four points mentioned above.)
If you have a particularly large number of birthmarks or think you have discovered a suspicious birthmark, you should not hesitate to visit your dermatologist. Because if skin cancer is detected at an early stage, the chances of recovery are almost 100 percent. You should also consult a dermatologist if you have scratched a mole, if a mole itches or hurts, and if a mole is inflamed, wet or bleeding.
Examining birthmarks: skin cancer screening
Anyone who belongs to a risk group should have their moles checked regularly (about once a year) by a dermatologist. This searches the entire body for moles and can quickly identify dangerous moles. In addition, the appearance of the birthmarks can be recorded with the help of photos - changes can easily be identified at the next check-up appointment. However, whether a birthmark is actually malignant can only be definitively determined after its removal by examining the tissue (biopsy).
From the age of 35, the statutory health insurance pays for skin cancer screening every two years - privately insured persons can be examined free of charge every year. Before the age of 35, those with statutory health insurance have to pay for the skin cancer screening themselves; depending on the practice, the screening costs between 30 and 50 euros. Under certain circumstances, however, the costs of the examination can also be covered by the health insurance company.
Removal of birthmarks
If a birthmark is suspected of being malignant, it is removed - usually under local anesthesia. There are several methods to choose from to remove the mole. Larger birthmarks will be cut out with a scalpel, smaller birthmarks can also punched out become. If the mark is cut out with a scalpel, the wound must then - depending on the size - usually be sutured with one or more stitches.
If possible, the birthmark - unless it is a cosmetic procedure - should not be removed with a laser, as the tissue is burned and cannot be examined afterwards. In no case should you try to remove the birthmark yourself. Not only can this lead to ugly scars, but it can also result in life-threatening infections.
If a birthmark has been removed, sports activities and movements that place particular stress on the affected region should be avoided for about two weeks. In addition, the wound should not come into contact with water for a certain period of time.
Four tips for correct behavior with moles:
- If you belong to a risk group, you should examine your skin carefully once a month and look for changes. Areas that you cannot see well yourself, such as the scalp, should be examined by another person.
- Have your dermatologist check your moles regularly. The earlier skin cancer is discovered, the better the chances of recovery. If you see any suspicious changes in a birthmark, you should make an appointment with your dermatologist immediately.
- If you suffer from particularly many or irregularly shaped birthmarks, you should avoid the blazing sun and rather stay in the shade in summer. If you go out in the sun, you should apply a lot of sunscreen. Sufficient sun protection is particularly important for children, as sunburns in childhood and adolescence can increase the risk of skin cancer by two to three times.
- If you discover an irregular birthmark, don't panic immediately. Only rarely is there actually a black skin cancer behind the birthmark - most of the time the spots are harmless.
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