Cancer occur after the removal of a mole?

In this article, we will consider the possibility of developing skin cancer after the removal of a mole.
When communicating with loved ones, patients or in Internet articles this topic is touched upon, you can often see such statements: "cancer developed after the removal of a mole," "removed a mole and died," and so on. Unfortunately, 99% of such stories always reach us in the form of rumors, retellings, through third parties and are completely unsupported by facts (histological examination, hospital discharge, CT, MRI, PET).

In this article, we will analyze in detail where these stories come from, whether they have any real basis and what the remaining 1% consists of.

Below are a few scenarios that may suggest that there is a connection between the removal of a mole and death from cancer.
The first two scenarios make up the same 99% of stories like "cancer developed after the removal of a mole." Moreover, the first accounts for the vast majority of such stories.
The first scenario is a coincidence

A few months or years after the removal of a mole, a person finds cancer.

The first question that arises is "Cancer of what? Colon cancer? Lungs? Breast cancer?".
If we are not talking about skin cancer or melanoma at the site of the removal of the mole, then it is quite obvious that there is no connection between the removal of the mole and the subsequent diagnosis. The fact is that a person by nature tends to connect events that occur one after another.

We confidently declare that at the moment there are no studies proving the connection between the removal of benign skin neoplasms and:
  • increased risk of skin cancer or melanoma
  • development of another oncological disease

To illustrate this scenario, let's tell a story.
There is a woman at the reception who wants to remove a papilloma in her armpit.

– It bothers me a lot, but I'm very afraid to remove it, because my mother removed my papilloma and died of cancer three months later, – the patient sighs.

– From cancer of what? – the doctor asks.

– Stomach, with liver metastases, – the interlocutor answers.

What does papilloma removal have to do with it? Stomach cancer, especially with metastases, has been developing for years! Nevertheless, a person who is not familiar with these facts, after hearing such a story, will say "here's cancer for you after the removal of moles."
The second scenario is a mistake by a doctor (oncologist, dermatologist or surgeon)

Mole was removed without histology, and skin cancer (melanoma) developed at the removal site.

There is no law in the world that prescribes that all the removed skin formations must be sent for histological examination. Therefore, a very large part of them is removed after a visual inspection – "by eye" – and sent to a waste container (especially if moles are removed in a beauty salon or even at home). This is where a tragic mistake can happen. If the doctor mistook skin cancer (melanoma) for a benign mole and removed it without histology and appropriate indentation, events unfold as follows:

  • at the removal site, a recurrence of melanoma (skin cancer) develops;
  • relapse grows more aggressively than the primary tumor, and metastases early;
  • after that, only 30% of patients have a chance to live for five years or more [1].

You might think, "Gotcha! So you got caught! Everyone, as they say in the people, – a man had a mole removed and he got cancer!", but you will be wrong. The removed mole was not a benign nevus – it was originally a malignant tumor. All further unpleasant consequences are caused not by removal, but by a medical error – incorrect diagnosis and treatment.

Fortunately, there are very few such stories and it is very easy to avoid them – require a histological examination of the mole after removal. This is the only way you can be sure that it is benign.
The third scenario is a mistake of a pathologist.

A mole was removed, according to histology – a nevus, but skin cancer develops at the site of removal.

It is human nature to make mistakes – this was noticed by the ancient Romans. Doctors are also people and can also make mistakes. Neither a therapist, nor a surgeon, nor even a pathologist is immune from an error. What can a doctor do to avoid a mistake? If in doubt, consult with colleagues. If necessary, from other institutions. Unfortunately, not all laboratories have the technical capabilities for this.

How not to become a victim of the third scenario?

Take a balanced approach to choosing a laboratory. In case of any doubts as a result of the study, take the material and take it for revision to another laboratory, or even to two others.
Perhaps you thought, "What a horror! You can't trust anyone and you can't be sure of anything! There's no way I'm going to remove a mole that bothers me so much, it's better and safer with it..."

Don't give in to neurosis. Human error can lurk anywhere, and you can never be 100% insured against it. A laboratory technician may make an analysis incorrectly, and we will not know that we are sick, and we will not start timely treatment. A radiologist or an ultrasound doctor may make a mistake when conducting a study, and the consequences of such an error will also be very sad. A builder can drop a brick on our head, a car can hit us on the street – there are a lot of chances to go to another world. However, it is not worth developing hypochondria and depression on this basis, because if you follow the logic of maximum reinsurance to the end, it is better to stay at home and never go outside.
The fourth scenario is a casuistic one.

They were removed, the histology is good, skin cancer (melanoma) developed at the removal site.

A benign mole was removed, according to histology – nevus, histology was reviewed in three laboratories, but at the site of removal, a non-pigmented melanoma developed, also revised several times in several institutions. How can this even be?

As we know, melanoma is a tumor that develops from melanocytes. These cells are evenly distributed throughout the skin. Thus, a tumor can develop on almost any part of the body and the place of removal of a mole is no exception. It is most likely that here we are also dealing with a coincidence, the extremely low frequency of occurrence of which only proves its probability.

How to prevent this scenario? Very simple: avoid risk factors for melanoma.

Conclusion: Currently, there is no evidence that the removal of a histologically confirmed benign mole is associated with melanoma (skin cancer) or with the development of another oncological disease.
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