Woman, 49,discovers 'beauty mark' turned out to be skin cancer

Woman, 49, who discovered the ‘beauty mark’ above her lip was a melanoma issues warning about the importance of check-ups after spending years ‘not caring’

  • WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES 
  • Andrea Moser, 49, from Montana believed spot above her lip was a beauty mark
  • In January 2020, noticed it appeared to be growing in size and getting darker
  • Had a routine check-up with her doctor, who said it looked like a ‘normal mole’
  • However biopsy after removing mole found it was squamous cell skin cancer

A woman who thought the spot above her lip was a ‘beauty mark’ discovered she actually had a dangerous form of skin cancer. 

Andrea Moser, 49, from Montana, believed the flat brown spot above her lip was a beauty mark but in January 2020, noticed it appeared to be growing in size, getting darker and changing shape. 

She had a routine check-up with her doctor, who said it looked like a ‘normal mole’ and not to worry, but she decided to err on the side of caution and visit a dermatologist.

Realtor Andrea underwent a procedure to remove the spot, which doctors initially believed to be non-cancerous, but later found to be melanoma – a serious form of skin cancer.

The dermatologist also removed a mark on her back which a biopsy revealed was squamous cell skin cancer. 

Andrea Moser, 49, from Montana, US, thought the spot above her lip (pictured in 2019) was a ‘beauty mark’ before discovering she actually had a dangerous form of skin cancer 

Estate agent Andrea believed the flat brown spot above her lip (pictured in February 2019) was a beauty mark

‘When they told me I had a few spots but they didn’t think it was cancerous, I was just so glad that I had gone in,’ Andrea said. 

‘Being fair skinned, it was always in the back of my mind that it could be a possibility. My mother was pretty worried because she has had some spots removed as well.’ 

Andrea had no idea her moles were cancerous until they were removed, but says she’s relieved the spots were a more common form of cancer which could be treated.

Andrea underwent an operation to remove the spot, along with another on her back, in March 2021. She is pictured following her surgery. 

Andrea, pictured in 2020, initially had a routine check-up with her doctor, who said the mark (pictured)  looked like a ‘normal mole’

Melanoma: The most dangerous form of skin cancer

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It happens after the DNA in skin cells is damaged (typically due to harmful UV rays) and then not repaired so it triggers mutations that can form malignant tumors. 

Around 15,900 new cases occur every year in the UK, with 2,285 Britons dying from the disease in 2016, according to Cancer Research UK statistics. 

Causes

  • Sun exposure: UV and UVB rays from the sun and tanning beds are harmful to the skin
  • Moles: The more moles you have, the greater the risk for getting melanoma 
  • Skin type: Fairer skin has a higher risk for getting melanoma
  • Hair color: Red heads are more at risk than others
  • Personal history: If you’ve had melanoma once, then you are more likely to get it again
  • Family history: If previous relatives have been diagnosed, then that increases your risk

Treatment 

  • Removal of the melanoma:

This can be done by removing the entire section of the tumor or by the surgeon removing the skin layer by layer. When a surgeon removes it layer by layer, this helps them figure out exactly where the cancer stops so they don’t have to remove more skin than is necessary. 

  • Skin grafting: 

The patient can decide to use a skin graft if the surgery has left behind discoloration or an indent. 

  • Immunotherapy, radiation treatment or chemotherapy: 

This is needed if the cancer reaches stage III or IV. That means that the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes or other organs in the body. 

Prevention

  • Use sunscreen and do not burn
  • Avoid tanning outside and in beds 
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside
  • Keep newborns out of the sun
  • Examine your skin every month
  • See your physician every year for a skin exam 

 Source: Skin Cancer Foundation and American Cancer Society

She underwent a procedure to remove the spot on her back and the mole above her lip, with doctors needing to make a large incision to cover the area surrounding the mole.

She said: ‘They essentially burned [the hole on my back] off and it scabbed up. But they wanted to make sure they got the entire spot above my lip so that was more invasive.

‘They had to cut the entire mole out and make a large incision along my smile line to pull the skin back up and make sure it didn’t look like I had a hole above my lip.

‘I didn’t know how big it would be going into it, but thankfully I had an amazing surgeon who did a wonderful job.’

After removal, the mole above her lip was tested and found to be melanoma – a serious form of skin cancer.


Looking back on old pictures of herself, Andrea (pictured L-R in 2012) says the spot can be seen steadily growing in size from as far back as 2009

After removal Andrea, pictured in Jul 2019, discovered the mole was a melanoma – a serious form of skin cancer 


While Andrea was concerned, she was relieved that the spots were a more common form of cancer which could be treated. She is pictured L-R in 2020 before having the mole removed 

Andrea is pictured in 2020 before discovering her ‘beauty mark’ was actually squamous cell skin cancer 

Andrea said: ‘I was a little shocked. I always thought that would never happen to me.’

Luckily, doctors were confident they had removed the entire mole and that the melanoma had not spread.

Andrea said: ‘After the surgery it was hard to get used to the big incision but thankfully it has healed much better than I expected over the last six months.

‘My smile is a little different now but also a reminder that I was able to overcome this and the melanoma didn’t win.’

Andrea has since been for three-monthly check-ups, which have all been clear, but she is more diligent than ever when it comes to her skin.

She added: ‘I use a mineral based SPF lotion everyday now – even in the winter – and have totally changed my skin care routine.’

Looking back on old pictures of herself, the spot can be seen steadily growing in size from as far back as 2009.

Andrea is pictured in May 2020 after discovering her ‘beauty mark’ was actually squamous cell skin cancer, before having the mole removed 


In March 2021, Andrea underwent a procedure to remove the spot on her back and the mole above her lip. She is pictured L-R following her surgery in March 2021

After her worrying brush with cancer, Andrea shared her story on Instagram to warn other people to have regular skin checks.

Thousands of people liked the post, with users commenting that they would be getting checked as a result.

One person said: ‘Thank you for sharing this post. After some other procedure I’m getting done, I’m going to get a spot checked on my face. It looks a lot like the picture.’

‘So happy you captured it all without it spreading. I too am a melanoma survivor and am very conscious now. Sending hugs,’ another user commented.

Someone else said: ‘Thank you for showing the before spot. I always want to see these because some are not the typical images you see online. I’m glad you’re doing well and your scar is barely noticeable. Nice job.’


Andrea is pictured following her surgery, which involved doctors making large incision to cover the area surrounding the mole, in September 2021

Andrea, pictured this year, has since been for three-monthly check-ups, which have all been clear, but she is more diligent than ever when it comes to her skin

Another user called it a ‘great reminder’.

Andrea said: ‘This was a wake-up call for me as to how important it is to get checked regularly and wear sun protection.

‘I spent a lot of years not caring about it and I was hoping by sharing it would help other people to get checked before it’s too late.

‘I heard lots of stories from people that decided to get checked so that made me happy. Some found nothing but others did find stuff and were able to get it taken care of.’

WHAT IS SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA?

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the upper layers of the skin.

It often looks like scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central dip or warts, all of which may crust or bleed.

They can become disfiguring or life-threatening if allowed to grow.

More than one million people are diagnosed with SCC every year in the US. Its UK prevalence is unclear.

SCC is mainly caused by overexposure to UV light from the sun or tanning beds.

People are more likely to suffer if they: 

  • Have fair hair or skin
  • Work outdoors
  • Are over 50
  • Have a personal or family history of the disease 
  • Have a suppressed immune system, such as chemotherapy or AIDS patients 

Squamous cell carcinoma often looks like scaly red patches or open sores

Although SCC can occur anywhere on the body, it is most common on areas exposed to the sun, such as the face and hands. 

SCCs spotted at an early stage and removed promptly are mostly curable and cause minimal damage.

Treatment typically includes surgery to remove the growth, as well as radiotherapy and topical drugs. 

People can reduce their risk of developing the disorder by:

  • Wearing a high-factor sun cream that is reapplied at least every two hours, or more if swimming
  • Covering up with clothing 
  • Seeking shade between 10am and 4pm
  • Not using UV tanning beds

Source: Skin Cancer Foundation 

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