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Skin is the body's protective barrier. Its health is important and affected by a range of factors including weather, humidity and topical treatments. Whether or not you obsess over your skin, you're likely to have wondered at one time or another whether the bump on your skin was innocuous or harmful. The line between conditions that are dangerous or just cosmetically unattractive is often fine. Here are some guidelines to help.

Skin cancer is of course one of the most common causes for concern. It's the most common type of cancer in North America and because it can present in so many different ways, self diagnosis isn't recommended. The following are cause for concern – certainly if you notice any suspicious abnormality it should be seen by a physician as soon as possible. These include:

[Link Removed] The most dangerous type of skin cancer, melanoma affects melanocytes – the skin's pigment-producing cells. It has the ability to metastasize and spread to lymph nodes and other organs. Melanoma can be treated if caught early, but once it spreads treatment is difficult and it may cause death.  If a mole presents any of these characteristics, or if it changes in size, shape, color or texture, it should be emphasized to the client to have it evaluated by a dermatologist in the near future.

Less cause for concern are the following skin issues, which are more annoying than anything else. Again, if you are not sure, follow up with your physician:

•Moles.  Whether flesh or dark colored, moles are comprised of melanocytes (pigment producing cells) bunched together. While harmless themselves, individuals prone to moles may be at higher risk for skin cancer. If a mole changes in color, size or shape, it should be examined by a doctor to ensure it is not cancerous. If removal is desired—even if just for cosmetic reasons—moles should be surgically excised and examined by a pathologist.
•Seborrheic keratoses (SK). Dark colored lesions, which seem to be stuck on the skin's surface. SK are waxlike and often have a rough, uneven texture. They are found more commonly in sun exposed areas. These lesions tend not to progress into cancerous lesions.
•Sebaceous hyperplasias. An abnormal enlargement of the sebaceous gland can result in these orange or yellow lesions. Most commonly found on the forehead, nose and cheeks due to the abundance of oil glands in these areas, these appear as raised, nodular bumps. They are not linked to cancer in any way.
•Cherry hemangiomas. Small, round lesions which range in color from bright red to purple, they are caused by an abnormal gathering of dilated small blood vessels called venules. They can appear anywhere on the face or body.
•Verrucae planae. Flat warts. Caused by the human papillomavirus, flat warts often appear on the face and can proliferate in large numbers.

Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti aging skin care and women's wellness. She owns and operates an online skin care store at [Link Removed]
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