Maybe you’ve read a few things about “picking off” a melanoma, but what about shaving it off—by accident?

For this article I consulted with Rajiv V. Datta, MD, Medical Director, The Gertrude & Louis Feil Cancer Center; Chair, Department of Surgery, South Nassau Hospital. Dr. Datta performs surgeries on melanoma.

I initially asked Dr. Datta if melanoma can be picked off. He says no.

“It is moles and nevus or seborrheic keratosis which get picked off while shaving or by fingernails,” he says.

“To remove a melanoma, it has to be deliberate, not accidental. You cannot accidentally shave off melanoma, as it is deep,” he further explains. “Even if you dig it out with a fingernail, the site does not heal, as it is a melanoma.”

A nevus is another name for a mole (pronounced knee-vus). A seborrheic keratosis is a harmless skin barnacle that can look like a mole, and at times, even resemble melanoma.

A seborrheic keratosis can suddenly start changing in color as well as color distribution, mimicking a malignancy.

Do not pick these off, even though they often look “pickable.” It’s best to have a dermatologist suspect any suspicious lesions.

But as for the idea that melanoma can accidentally be shaved off, Dr. Datta adds:

“Melanocytes are normal cells at the basal layer of the epidermis. These are single cells and can sometime get shaved off. Melanoma cells are cancerous which means that they have gone through their cell wall and invaded the surrounding cells; they are also proliferative, meaning that there are a lot of these cells. A combination of these makes it difficult to accidentally shave it off.”