Normal mole under magnification

Normal mole under magnification

Can a normal mole ever turn into squamous cell carcinoma, which kills about 3,500 Americans every year and is considered the second-deadliest of all skin cancers?

It’s a good question: Is it ever possible for a squamous cell carcinoma to arise from a pre-existing typical mole.

“No, we do not usually see squamous cell carcinoma arising from a mole,” says Dr. Susan Weinkle, a board certified dermatologist with a private practice in Bradenton, FL.

Thus, as you may already know, the deadliest skin cancer, melanoma, comes from moles in about 25 percent of melanoma cases, but moles cannot turn into squamous cell carcinoma.

What does squamous cell carcinoma look like?

Squamous cell carcinoma. Shutterstock/Dermatology11

Dr. Weinkle explains: SCC usually appears as growing lumps, often with a rough, scaly, or crusted surface.

They may also look like flat reddish patches in the skin that grow slowly. They commonly occur on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the face, ear, neck, lip, and back of the hands.

Sometimes, they form in the skin of the genital area and they can also develop in scars or skin ulcers elsewhere.”

A precancerous skin condition called actinic keratosis can have the appearance of early squamous cell carcinoma.

Some dermatologists actually consider actinic keratoses and SCC to be on the same continuum, or, to put it another way, actinic keratosis is squamous cell carcinoma in its earliest form.

However, this is not the general consensus among dermatologists. If left untreated, most actinic keratoses will not morph into squamous cell carcinoma.

And when they do, it takes years for this to happen. If you’ve been diagnosed with actinic keratosis, don’t panic; don’t get alarmed.

Actinic keratoses are curable, and only rarely (5-10 percent) become squamous cell carcinoma, and that’s when they are left untreated.

And out of those that become squamous cell carcinoma, only 10 percent actually spread to other parts of the body – and those are the ones that are not caught early enough to be cured.

Most squamous cell carcinomas are slow-growing, and when they spread, it’s because the patient either:

1) became aware of it but brushed it off as a sign of aging or nothing to worry about, or 2) the tumor developed in a location that the patient didn’t readily see, such as behind an ear or on top of the head.

It’s important to check your moles every month, as well as non-mole areas of skin, for any suspicious spots or new lesions, including squamous cell carcinoma, and have a dermatologist check your skin annually.

dr. weinkleA skilled surgeon with 30+ years’ experience, Dr. Weinkle is also a Fellow in the American College of Mohs Surgery. She is past President of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.