Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, with over 400 people being diagnosed every day. Melanoma skin cancer is on the rise, with incidence rates increasing by 45% in the UK in the last decade, despite the warnings of the dangerous effects of sun exposure. Early detection of skin cancer, through examination and regular monitoring of moles, saves lives and if caught and treated early enough there is a 100% chance of survival. However, if left to develop and evolve, melanoma can become fatal. Skin cancer is more often seen rather than felt which is why we strongly recommend checking your moles regularly.
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MOLES?
Most people have moles and they are usually nothing to worry about. Babies can be born with moles and new moles can appear on the body throughout childhood and teenage years. Moles may fade or disappear with age and can become slightly darker during pregnancy. By checking your moles regularly and getting to know your skin, any changes in shape, size or colour can be identified early and checked by a consultant dermatologist.
HOW DO I CHECK MY MOLES?
It is a good idea to check your moles once a month, especially if you have lots of moles or freckles (particularly if some are large), have fair hair or skin, use sunbeds or have a family history of skin cancer.
When checking your moles, it is a good idea to use both a full length and a hand held mirror so you are able to check your body all over. Stand in a well lit room and ask a family member or your partner to help you check the hard to reach areas. Don’t forget to check less obvious places such as your scalp, the soles of your feet and in between your fingers and toes.
When checking your body for moles, you are looking for any changes to the size, colour of shape. You are also looking for itching, bleeding or crusting of moles which are signs you need to book an appointment to get your moles checked by a consultant dermatologist. When checking for moles, know your ABCDEs and get your moles professional checked if:
A Asymmetry – one half doesn’t match the other half
B Borders – the mole has uneven borders
C Colour – there is a variety of colours in the mole (brown, tan or black)
D Diameter – the mole grows larger than a pencil eraser (¼ inch)
E Evolution – the mole evolves in size, shape, colour, elevation or there is a new characteristic
If you have checked your moles and still aren’t sure if they need checking by a consultant dermatologist, take our interactive quiz to see if your moles are likely to be safe or need to be checked by an expert. If you have any doubts or concerns about your moles, book an appointment to get them checked. If caught and treated early, there is a 100% chance of survival.
Dr Adam Friedmann
Qualifications: MB BS 1997 University of London
Dr Friedmann is a UK-trained Dermatologist who trained at King’s College School of Medicine, London. He has worked at many of London’s teaching hospitals including King’s College, St Georges, Hammersmith, Barts and the London and the Royal Free Hospitals.
Dr Friedmann is Chief Medical Officer of The Dermatology Partnership and Clinical Director of the Harley Street Dermatology Clinic.
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