Q: Where on the body do you find the most skin cancer? Where are patients most surprised to learn they have skin cancer?
I find most skin cancers on skin that has been exposed to the sun. In order of frequency in our office, it is face first, then chest, back and extremities (the arms and legs). Often patients are surprised when we find a skin cancer directly on their nose, as this is an area where patients are more used to glandular activity (i.e., pimples). So, when we want to biopsy the nose, they may think it is a pimple that will go away on its own.
Additionally, when we identify either a new mole or atypical cells in an existing mole that is changing, this can come as a surprise to patients. They are used to their moles and sometimes do not recognize a pigmented spot as new. Pigment refers to the color in your skin. There are patterns of pigment that I look for when examining a patient with my dermatoscope, a handheld magnifying device. It helps me to know if something is homogenous in color, symmetrical and reassuring in pattern and helps me determine if a biopsy is warranted.
Panta Rouhani Schaffer, MD, is a dermatologist practicing in New York City. She is an associate physician at Gramercy Park Dermatology and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine.