A woman who thought the spot above her lip was a “beauty mark” discovered that she actually had a dangerous form of skin cancer.
Andrea Moser, 49, from Montana, thought the flat brown spot above her lip was a mole, but in January 2020 she noticed it was getting bigger, darker, and changing shape.
She had a scheduled checkup with a doctor who said it looked like a “normal mole” and not to worry about, but she decided to play it safe and see a dermatologist.
Realtor Andrea underwent a procedure to remove a stain that doctors first thought was non-cancerous but later found to be melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.
The dermatologist also removed a mark on her back, which a biopsy showed was squamous cell skin cancer.
Andrea Moser, 49, from Montana, USA, thought the spot above her lip (pictured in 2019) was a “sign of beauty” before discovering she actually had a dangerous form of skin cancer.
Real estate agent Andrea believes the flat brown spot above her lip (pictured in February 2019) was a sign of beauty.
“When they told me I had some acne but they didn’t think it was cancer, I was so glad that I got it,” Andrea said.
“Being fair-skinned, I always thought it might be possible. My mother was very worried because her stains were also removed.”
Andrea had no idea her moles were cancerous until they were removed, but she says she was relieved that the spots were a more common form of cancer that could be treated.
Andrea had surgery to remove the spot along with another spot on her back in March 2021. She is pictured after surgery.
Andrea, pictured in 2020, first had a routine checkup with her doctor, who said the mark (pictured) looked like a “normal mole”.
Melanoma: the deadliest form of skin cancer
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. This occurs after the DNA in skin cells is damaged (usually due to harmful UV rays) and then not repaired, causing mutations that can lead to the formation of malignant tumors.
According to British statistics from Cancer Research UK, there are around 15,900 new cases in the UK each year, with 2,285 Britons dying from the disease in 2016.
- Sun exposure: UV and UV-B rays from the sun and tanning beds are harmful to the skin.
- Moles: The more moles you have, the higher your risk of getting melanoma
- Skin Type: Lighter skin has a higher risk of developing melanoma.
- Hair Color: Redheads are more at risk than others
- Personal history: If you had melanoma once, you are more likely to get it again.
- Family history: if the diagnosis was made in previous relatives, this increases the risk
This can be done by removing the entire area of the tumor, or by having the surgeon remove the skin layer by layer. When the surgeon removes it layer by layer, it helps him pinpoint where the cancer is stopping so he doesn’t have to remove more skin than necessary.
The patient may decide to use a skin graft if a discoloration or indentation remains after the operation.
- Immunotherapy, radiation therapy or chemotherapy:
This is necessary if the cancer reaches stage III or IV. This means that the cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes or other organs of the body.
- Use sunscreen and don’t burn yourself
- Avoid sunbathing outdoors and in bed
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside
- Keep newborns out of the sun
- Examine your skin every month
- Visit your doctor annually for a skin exam
Source: Skin Cancer Foundation and American Cancer Society.
She underwent surgery to remove a spot on her back and a mole above her lip, which required doctors to make a large incision to cover the area around the mole.
She said, “They basically burned [the hole on my back] off and it scabs up. But they wanted to make sure they got the whole patch over my lip so it was more invasive.
“They had to cut out the entire mole and make a big incision along the smile line to tighten the skin and make sure it didn’t look like a hole above the lip.”
“I didn’t know how important it would be, but luckily I had a wonderful surgeon who did a wonderful job.”
After removal, the mole above the lip was tested and found to be melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.
Looking back at her old photos, Andrea (pictured by LR in 2012) says the spot has been steadily growing in size since 2009.
After having her removed, Andrea, pictured in July 2019, discovered that the mole was melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.
Although Andrea was worried, she was relieved that the spots were a more common form of cancer that could be treated. She is pictured by LR in 2020 before her mole removal.
Andrea is pictured in 2020 before discovering that her “mole” was actually squamous cell skin cancer.
Andrea said: “I was a little shocked. I always thought this would never happen to me.”
Fortunately, the doctors were confident that they had removed the entire mole and that the melanoma had not spread.
Andrea said: “After the operation, it was difficult to get used to the large incision, but fortunately over the past six months it has healed much better than I expected.”
“My smile is a little different now, but it also reminds me that I was able to get over it and the melanoma didn’t win.”
Since then, Andrea has had three-month checkups, everything was clear, but she is more diligent than ever when it comes to her skin.
She added, “Now I use a mineral-based SPF lotion every day – even in winter – and have completely changed my skincare.”
Looking back at your old photos, you can see that the spot has been steadily growing in size since 2009.
Andrea is pictured in May 2020 after discovering that her “mole” was actually squamous cell skin cancer, before the mole was removed.
In March 2021, Andrea had a spot removed on her back and a mole above her lip. She is pictured by LR after surgery in March 2021.
After she faced cancer, Andrea shared her story on Instagram to warn other people to check their skin regularly.
Thousands of people liked the post, and users noted that they would be checked as a result.
One person said, “Thank you for sharing this post. After some other procedure that I’m finishing up, I’m going to check out the stain on my face. Very similar to the picture.
“So happy you filmed it all without distribution. I also experienced melanoma and am now fully conscious. Hugs,” another user commented.
Someone else said, “Thank you for showing me the place before.” I always want to see them because some of them are not the typical images you see on the internet. I’m glad you’re doing well and your scar is barely visible. Good job.’
Andrea is pictured after surgery, in which doctors made a large incision to close the area around the mole, in September 2021.
Andrea, pictured this year, has since gone through three months of checkups, all clear, but she’s more diligent than ever when it comes to her skin.
Another user called it “great reminder”.
Andrea said: “It was a wake-up call for me about the importance of getting checked regularly and wearing sun protection.
“I spent many years not caring about this, and I hoped that by sharing this, I helped other people get tested before it was too late.”
“I heard a lot of stories from people who decided to get tested, and it made me very happy. Some didn’t find anything, but others found things and were able to take care of them.”
WHAT IS SQUAT CELL CANCER?
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the upper layers of the skin.
It often looks like scaly red patches, open sores, raised growths with a hollow in the center, or warts that may crust or bleed.
They can become disfiguring or life-threatening if allowed to grow.
More than one million people are diagnosed with SCC each year in the United States. Its prevalence in the UK is unclear.
SCC is mainly caused by overexposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds.
People are more likely to suffer if they:
- Have fair hair or skin
- work outdoors
- over 50 years old
- Have a personal or family history of illness
- Have a suppressed immune system such as chemotherapy or AIDS patients
Squamous cell carcinoma often looks like scaly red spots or open sores.
Although squamous cell carcinoma can occur anywhere on the body, it most commonly occurs on sun-exposed areas, such as the face and hands.
SCCs found early and quickly removed are mostly curable and cause minimal damage.
Treatment usually includes surgery to remove the growth, as well as radiation therapy and topical medications.
People can reduce their risk of developing the disorder by:
- Wearing a high-factor sunscreen that is reapplied at least every two hours, or more often if you swim.
- Cover up with clothes
- Looking for shade from 10:00 to 16:00
- Do not use UV tanning beds
Source: Skin Cancer Foundation.