Virtually everyone has had a skin lesion such as a mole, wart, or sunspot. Skin lesions may be treated to help improve your appearance, or they may be treated for health concerns or because they’re irritating. Board certified dermatologist Dr. Marilyn Kwolek has extensive experience in assessing skin lesions, and, when necessary, removing them safely. She serves patients from the Contra Costa community at her practice in Danville, California.
A skin lesion is any abnormal bump, ulcer, sore, or pigmented area on your skin. Moles can occur anywhere on your body, and are one of the most common types of skin lesion. Actinic keratosis, or small patches of crusty bumps from long-term sun exposure, is another common kind of lesion. Warts, skin tags, age spots, and cancerous spots -- including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma -- are all considered skin lesions.
Skin lesions may be removed for a variety of reasons, ranging from cosmetic to medical. Warts may be removed to prevent them from spreading, or because they cause irritation or discomfort, just as skin tags may be removed to help improve appearance. Oftentimes, skin lesions are removed to rule out or help diagnose cancer. For example, a questionable-looking mole may be excised so it can be sent to a lab and biopsied. Lesions caused by actinic keratosis are often removed because they can develop into cancer.
Lesion removal is typically an in-office procedure that’s done with a local anesthetic. The type of lesion you have, as well as its location and size, are primarily what determine the method used for removal. Some of the most common lesion removal methods include:
Shave excision — Primarily used for bumps and other lesions that rise above the skin, this procedure involves the use of a small blade to cut out the lesion. Simple scissor excision is a similar method that may be used for more pronounced raised lesions.
Skin excision — This technique is used to remove lesions that extend down into the deeper layers of skin. It often involves removing a margin area of normal tissue around the lesion, particularly when cancer is a concern. Skin excisions are typically closed with stitches.
Laser excision — Lasers can be used to heat the cells in certain types of lesions, until they burst. Laser excision can be useful in treating age spots, moles, and warts, as well as benign or precancerous skin lesions.
Cryotherapy — This technique, which involves destroying the tissues of skin lesions by freezing them, is often used to remove warts and actinic keratosis lesions, among others. It’s done by applying liquid nitrogen to the lesion, which effectively destroys it so it can be peeled off.
Age spots and warts are almost always benign (non-cancerous) lesions that don’t require medical attention. Any lesion that’s especially dark or has changed in appearance, however, should be evaluated. Signs of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, include lesions that have grown rapidly, have irregular borders, or are itchy or tender to the touch.
If you have any suspicious-looking lesions, make an appointment with Dr. Kwolek as soon as possible.
* Individual results may vary.