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Navigate: FAQ Home Page > Genital skin concerns > How to know if bump/lump needs a doctor
1 - Skin cancer is extremely rare in teens in the genital area, but not impossible. Melanoma, the type of skin cancer that will kill you if not treated, usually presents as a black spot that continues to enlarge. It can be completely flat and can develop in non sun-exposed skin. A good website to look this up is www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/sun_malignant.html. Non-melanoma skin cancer usually presents as a non-healing, skin-colored or reddish bump that often bleeds easily and does not go away.
2 - Infections that can have serious consequences are a)genital warts, b)syphilis, and possibly c)herpes.
2a) Genital warts are small skin-colored bumps, usually multiple. They may eventually go away, stay the same, or become more numerous. They are contagious and caused by the HPV virus; they have been linked to cervical cancer in women. There is now an HPV vaccine available, recommended for all girls currently, and probably for boys in the future. If you think you have genital warts, you should see an ob-gyn if female and a dermatologist if male. A website with further info is www.cdc.gov/STD/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm.
2b) Syphilis presents as an erosion or ulceration in the genital area and needs to be treated by antibiotics. You can develop serious problems if it is left untreated. A website with more information is www.cdc.gov/STD/syphilis/STDFact-Syphilis.htm.
2c) Herpes presents as painful blisters in the genital area. Although the herpes infection itself is not particularly dangerous, the biggest problem is that it tends to come back in the same area multiple times, for some people as frequently as once a month. It is contagious and can be a problem in pregnancy also.
3 - Harmless bumps in the genital area include a)cysts, b)angiomas, and c)mollusca.
3a) Cysts are yellowish round lumps under the skin, which feel like a small ball or pebble that can easily be moved around. These may enlarge slightly, but in general stay about the same and do not cause any problems. No treatment is needed.
3b) Angiomas are small collections of blood vessels and are either bright red or slightly purplish. These do not usually enlarge or bleed. No treatment is needed.
3c) Mollusca are viral in origin and in the genital area are usually sexually-transmitted. A website with more information is www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/viral_mollscum.html. They are usually skin colored, tiny (1-2mm in size), and multiple. They will go away with time, but this may take up to 3 years. Eventhough they do not cause any disease or increase your chance of cancer, they do represent a sexually-transmitted disease and are usually a sign of unprotected intercourse (sex without a condom). Therefore, if you develop these, you should see your doctor and get tested for the possibility of other sexually-transmitted diseases, such as HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and hepatitis. With the exception of syphilis, these other diseases do not cause you to develop any bumps in the genital area.
Hope this answers your question. The people who are most likely to develop sexually-transmitted disease are those who have sex at an early age, have a greater number of sexual partners, and do not use a condom. So, the age-old tradition of monogomy is actually sound medical advice!
Renata Mullen , M.D.