ZocdocAnswersDo a lot of freckles and moles in one area lead to an increased risk of cancer?

Question

Do a lot of freckles and moles in one area lead to an increased risk of cancer?

When I was a kid I got a couple of bad sunburns on my shoulders and now there are a lot of moles and freckles there. Does that mean I have an increased chance of getting skin cancer? Do freckles and moles contribute to cancer?

Answer

If you have any moles or freckles that are changing size/coloration, I would definitely recommend making an appointment with a dermatologist to get them evaluated. There is no substitute to doing a small biopsy to determine if a lesion has pathologic evidence of a skin cancer. What I mean by this, is that there is no way to tell for sure if something is a cancer or not just by looking at it. With that being said, there are characteristics of skin lesions that make them more likely to be cancerous as compared to benign (non-malignant) lesions. To the best of my knowledge a higher concentration or freckles in one particular area does not necessarily mean that particular area has an increased risk of developing a skin cancer. However, there is something called the Fitzpatrick scale of skin pigmentation that gives a numerical number to different skin types with difference response rates to UV light. The basic scale goes from Fitzpatrick 1 (albino) to Fitzpatrick 6 (black). The lower the Fitzpatrick number, the more risk that individual has for UV damage that could lead to a skin cancer. With this scale in mind, people with freckles usually have a low Fitzpatrick number, and thus may have a higher risk of developing a skin cancer than someone with a higher Fitzpatrick number. Nonetheless, a low number doesn't mean that you will definitely develop a skin cancer, so I would recommend getting in to have a dermatologist look at the areas that you are worried about. I hope that this was helpful. Best of luck.

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