Moles are extremely common, with the average adult having between 10-40 moles somewhere on their body. A mole is a small coloured spot on the skin which is made up of a cluster of cells known as melanocytes, which are responsible for producing the pigment in your skin. The majority of moles will be nothing to worry about, however some moles can develop into melanoma skin cancer.
Melanoma skin cancer is a form of skin cancer that affects thousands of people within the UK each year. The vast majority of cases are preventable and there is a very high survival rate of melanoma skin cancer if diagnosed and treated quickly.
Professional mole checking is one of the best safeguards against melanoma skin cancer, allowing your doctor to catch any suspicious changes early, and providing potentially life saving melanoma treatment. Find out more about the mole checking services we offer and how they could help you.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF MOLE CHECKING SERVICES
Here at Everything Skin Clinic, we offer two mole checking services to assess your moles for cancer and to give you peace of mind; a mole check and dermoscopic examination with a consultant dermatologist, and a full body automated mole map using the Fotofinder ATBM machine.
A dermatoscope helps dermatologists to distinguish benign moles from malignant (cancerous) lesions. A dermatoscope uses a high-quality lens for 10 to 14-times magnification and a lighting system which enables your consultant to be able to see subsurface structures and patterns. Pattern recognition and specialist training in dermatology and dermoscopy allows our clinical staff to differentiate harmless moles from dysplastic (abnormal) moles and melanoma skin cancer. This allows early removal of dangerous moles and prevents unnecessary removal of benign moles.
Mole mapping is carried out using cutting edge skin-imaging technology, the Fotofinder system. This system provides state-of-the-art laser guided computer mapping of your entire skin and high resolution mapping of individual moles. This part of the mole checking service uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to assess each mole and provide cancer risk analysis.
The images the FotoFinder system takes are analysed by your dermatologist, mapped and recorded. It’s ability to compare images and identify changes in the appearance of moles makes it a highly accurate tool in identifying the development of skin cancer.
It is recommended that you come for a professional dermatologist mole check at least once a year, however if you notice any changes to your moles or are concerned about anything it is important to get checked sooner.
WHAT IS MELANOMA?
There are three main types of skin cancer; basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma. Melanoma is less common than the other two non-melanoma cancers, accounting for approximately 3% of all skin cancer cases in the UK, which equates to around 16,000 new cases of melanoma skin cancer a year.
Melanoma is a skin cancer that usually starts in the skin and develops when melanocyte cells, the cells that produce brown pigment and moles, grow and divide at a quicker rate than usual. The appearance of a new mole, or any changes to an existing mole could be an indication of a melanoma which is why it is so important to monitor your moles for any changes, so if required you can access quick melanoma treatment.
In most cases, melanomas are more than one colour and are irregular in shape, they can sometimes be itchy and bleed. As with all skin cancers, exposure to ultraviolet light (UV light) is the common cause. You also have an increased risk to developing malignant melanoma if you have lots of moles or freckles. If you have a pale skin type which is prone to burning or have a family history of the disease you are also more at risk.
There are four main types of melanoma:
Superficial spreading melanoma
This is the most common type of melanoma in the UK. They are more common in people with pale skin. Initially, they will grow outwards, rather than downwards into the skin where they will not pose a problem, however they can grow down deep into the skin where they can spread to other parts of the body.
Nodular melanomas grow much quicker into the deeper layers of the skin so it is vital they are spotted and removed quickly. Their appearance is a changing lump on the skin which is dark in colour and they often ooze or bleed. They often grow on normal skin, rather than an existing mole and commonly appear on the neck, head, chest and back.
Lentigo maliga melanoma
Lentigo maligna melanoma develop slowly over many years in areas which are commonly exposed to the sun such as the face and the arms. As they develop slowly, they are often found in older people, particularly those who have spent a lot of time outdoors. They often look like freckles, but are darker and larger so more noticeable. They will gradually grow bigger and can grow downwards to the deeper layers of the skin forming lumps.
Acral lentiginous melanoma
Acral lentiginous melanomas are very rare and appear on the hands or the feet, particularly around a nail. They are most common in people with darker skin but can affect anyone.
IS MELANOMA DANGEROUS?
Although less common than non-melanoma skin cancers, melanomas are very serious and are sometimes dubbed as a ‘silent killer’, as they can grow quickly and spread to other areas of the body. More than 2,300 people die every year in the UK from melanoma so it is therefore vital that melanomas are detected, diagnosed and treated early.
Unlike most types of cancers, more than 1 in 4 skin cancer cases are diagnosed in people under the age of 50 which is unusually early and can result in younger people not understanding the seriousness of symptoms or knowing they are at risk. Skin cancer has also become much more common in the UK in recent years, most likely to due to the increased exposure to intense sunlight whilst holidaying abroad. You can reduce your chances of developing skin cancer by avoiding getting sunburned and protecting your skin with SPF protection and appropriate clothing when in direct sunlight.
If melanoma is diagnosed and treated at an early stage, surgery is usually successful in removing the cancer completely. However, if melanoma diagnosis doesn’t happen until the cancer is at an advanced stage, melanoma treatment is mainly used to slow the spread of the cancer and to reduce the symptoms. Once you have had melanoma, there is a chance it may return again, so it is very important to have regular check ups to monitor your skin and overall health.
HOW DO MOLE CHECKS HELP DIAGNOSE AND TREAT MELANOMA?
During your dermatologist mole checking appointment, either through a dermoscopic examination or mole mapping using the Fotofinder machine, your moles will be assessed and if detected, melanoma will be diagnosed and melanoma treatment options discussed with you.
Mole checking, using the Fotofinder mole mapping machine is a highly accurate tool in the detection of skin cancer due to its ability to compare historical images and easily identify even the smallest changes to your moles. The machine takes high-quality images of your body, recording and mapping all of your moles. An artificial intelligence algorithm then assesses each individual mole and provides a cancer risk analysis. The images and the analysis is then reviewed by your dermatologist who can then further investigate particular moles if necessary. As part of the mole mapping service, you will be provided with a record of your mole map and the digital images will be securely stored for future reference. When you come for your next appointment, your previous images will be compared with your new images, allowing for quick melanoma diagnosis if present.
If your mole needs to be removed, it will be tested in the lab to confirm that it was in fact cancerous and that all of the cancer cells have been successfully taken away. Sometimes, additional melanoma treatment will be required to eliminate any remaining cancer cells. In a small number of cases, the cancer will have spread to other parts of the body before it was detected. At this point, further skin cancer treatment options will be discussed with you.
Noticing that one of your moles is changing can be worrying, but it is important to remember that most moles won’t cause any problems and most people won’t be affected by skin cancer. A private mole check can be hugely reassuring and is an opportunity to get professional melanoma diagnosis.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR MOLES?
It is a good idea to check your moles at home once a month, especially if you have lots of moles or freckles, have fair hair or skin, use sunbeds or have a family history of skin cancer.
When checking your moles, it is recommended to use both a full length and a handheld 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. It is a good idea to take photos of your moles so you can keep track of any changes. If you do notice any changes or are worried by any of your moles, consult a dermatologist who can check them professionally.
Moles can look very different to each other which can make it hard to identify moles which may be worrying, the key thing you are looking for is if your mole is changing. 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
By checking your moles regularly and becoming familiar with your moles, you will be able to detect any changes in them early and get them seen by a specialist so treatment can begin if required.
If you notice any suspicious changes in a mole, such as the ones outlined above, you should see a consultant dermatologist as soon as possible for professional mole checking. Your dermatologist at Everything Skin Clinic will make a detailed assessment of your worrying mole and either identify it as benign or recommend it to be removed.
Here at Everything Skin Clinic, we believe that there is no substitute to a full body mole check. Our mole check clinic is a consultant dermatologist led service and is the first in Manchester offering automated total mole mapping.
If you would like any more information about our mole mapping service, or are interested to find out more about mole checks, please give us a call on 0161 509 1294.
MEET OUR EXPERTS
DR VISHAL MADAN
Dr Vishal Madan is the founder and medical director at Everything Skin Clinic. He is a Consultant Dermatologist, Laser and Dermatological Surgeon. Dr Madan specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of all skin conditions. Being the President of the British Medical Laser Association, he is the leading skin expert with extensive experience in the laser treatment of rosacea, facial redness, blemishes, rhinophyma, cysts, birthmarks, acne including acne scarring. He has a special interest in skin cancer treatment, using Mohs Micrographic surgery; a specialized technique which is by far the best method of treating basal cell carcinomas or BCC’s.
Why choose Everything Skin Clinic?
At Everything Skin Clinic™, we have a team of highly trained Consultant dermatologists, who have completed specialist training in Dermatology and are on the specialist register of the General Medical Council. All our consultants hold substantive contracts with the best Dermatology centres in leading NHS hospitals. Therefore, you can be certain of the highest quality private care.
We offer a range of treatments and can offer one, or a combination of treatments to achieve the best results. Unlike many other clinics, we can offer diagnosis and treatment all under one roof by expert consultant dermatologist, so you know you’ll be in safe hands.