This article is about rubbing off a melanoma, not scraping, picking or cutting.
Ever wonder if melanoma can be literally rubbed off? For instance, with a fingertip, rag or piece of clothing?
“It is not possible to remove a melanoma completely by simply rubbing it with clothing, a rag or a finger,” says Dr. Janet Prystowsky, board certified dermatologist in New York, NY, with 25-plus years’ experience.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t remove some of the melanoma with a rubbing action, especially if it’s big and has raised portions.
It just depends on how hard you rub, the length of time spent doing this (vs. just one swipe with a fingertip or wash cloth) and what the rubbing instrument is (finger vs. sandpaper).
Dr. Prystowsky says that it’s “possible with effort to purposely rub the visible signs of a melanoma off of the skin. It would require rubbing that leads to superficial bleeding, however, like a skinned knee from rubbing the rough cement on a sidewalk.”
In short, intense rubbing—with something rough rather than smooth, such as a loofa brush or emery board, as opposed to the smooth surface of your palm or a cotton swab. And it would require repeated swipes.
“Even with this extreme rubbing, it would not mean the melanoma is completely gone, however, because microscopic melanoma cells would remain behind in deeper layers of the skin,” says Dr. Prystowsky.
There can be micro-metastases, meaning, microscopic branches of the malignant cells extending underneath the visible spot, penetrating into the dermis, which is the second layer of skin.
“Someone rubbing the melanoma would have the mistaken belief that because they cannot see the spot on their skin any longer, that they do not have to worry about it –this is not the case,” explains Dr. Prystowsky.
If you leave even just one melanoma cell behind (in theory), that one cell would likely proliferate unseen beneath the visible part of the skin.
“It is worth noting that skin cancer tissue bleeds more readily than normal skin typically, so minor trauma from tight clothing may trigger enough rubbing to disrupt the surface of a skin cancer and cause bleeding.
“This is because cancer cells more readily break away from each other and have a more generous blood supply than normal skin. After the bleeding stops, you would
expect to see at least some of the skin cancer, e.g., melanoma, remaining under this less traumatic, accidental rubbing situation.”