If you have acne, you know the struggle that comes along with it. Acne usually has few long-term leftover effects, like maybe a few scars, or some bad memories from trying to fight recurring acne breakouts with DIY remedies. But aside from that, acne is a fairly innocent skin condition - right? But what if your acne actually isn’t acne at all? Could it develop into something more dangerous like melanoma?
Most of us have battled the occasional pimple here and there at some point in our lives. In fact, only about 15 percent of teenagers don’t struggle with annoying, unpredictable zits. Lots of research has been done to try to figure out the real causes of acne, and while many findings suggest that factors such as genetics, diet, and daily habits do play a role in acne, there is one cause that stands out among the rest. And that is your hormones.
There are all kinds of hormones in our bodies, and many of them are thought to affect our skin. These include insulin, estrogen, androgen, growth hormones, melanocortins, and adrenocorticotropic hormone. You may be wondering what any of this has to do with developing melanoma. Well, it turns out that many different types of cancers are thought to also be related to hormones - and that includes melanoma. Certain types of acne caused by hormones could be telling you that you’re at risk of developing skin cancer.
This may sound like a lot, but there is scientific evidence to back it all up. In 1989, a 10 year Harvard experiment was done to explore the connection between acne and melanoma. More than 99,000 women were involved in this study to see if there was a correlation. The results concluded that women who had struggled with acne in their earlier years were more likely to develop moles, as well as melanoma in their later years.
But what was the reason for the correlation between acne and melanoma? What they found in this study was that androgens - a specific kind of hormone - could be significantly affecting telomeres. The telomeric proteins that were affected by the androgen receptors, and they found that longer telomeres would go into senescence at later stages. When this happened, it stimulated the production of nevi. Melanocytes would then become more likely to mutate into benign growths such as moles, and later, to cancerous tumors.
It was determined by scientists that acne during youth could mean that the person has larger amounts of androgen in their system, which could mean a bigger likelihood of developing cancer and melanoma later on in life. Even considering other factors that may have contributed to the results of the test subjects, the correlations that were found could still help doctors determine a person’s risk for developing melanoma later in their life.
So what does all of this information mean for you? Most pimples are completely harmless, but if you find one that seems unusually stiff, check it out because it might be nodular melanoma. But how can you detect if your pimple is cancerous? Watch your pimple over a period of several weeks. If it is melanoma, it will start out as a sort of clear bubble that slowly gets bigger over time. After that, it will start to harden and get firm. These look a lot different than the usual pus-filled pimples, so you should have no problem being about to differentiate between a normal pimple and melanoma.
While it is more likely that nodular melanoma will come in the form of a new skin growth, zit, or bulge, it can also come from a mole that you’ve had for a long time. Nodular melanoma that forms from a mole tends to grow quickly too.
If you’re worried that what you might have is melanoma, keep an eye on it. One important thing to remember is that a mole that forms into melanoma is more likely to gradually change and develop, getting bigger as more time goes on. Pay attention to your body, examine your skin every few days, and especially watch your moles. Even if you’re pretty sure that your mole isn’t cancerous, if you have any doubts at all, a quick check up with your dermatologist is never a bad idea.
Even if you are fortunate to have perfectly smooth skin with no blemishes now, you’ll find that as you get older, that won’t always be the case. You’ll happen to get a bump here and there, and while most of them will probably be completely harmless, it’s still important that you get to know the signs and symptoms of bumps that aren’t exactly so harmless. And that includes knowing the tell-tale signs of melanoma. To add to that - going back to the Harvard experiment that was mentioned earlier - knowing what to look for is especially important if you struggled with severe acne when you were younger, as it could have put you at higher risk of developing skin cancers such as melanoma. If you are especially acne-prone, be sure to continue to take care of your skin, and protect yourself from the harsh sunlight. And as always, if you notice something abnormal on your skin like an unusual bump, get it checked out! After all, it’s always better to be safe than to be sorry!