Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK, but also one of the most preventable. Skin cancer can be characterised as melanoma or non-melanoma, and the most common sign of melanoma is a change in the appearance of an existing mole, or the development of a new mole.
There are around 16,202 cases of melanoma skin cancer diagnosed every year in the UK. 86% of these cases are preventable and there is an 87% survival rate if treated quickly. The best way to identify melanoma skin cancer early is to regularly check your body for signs of worrying moles and seek expert help if you notice anything concerning.
The Dermatology Partnership, the group that Everything Skin Clinic is part of, has recently conducted research looking into mole checking behaviours of the British public. It was found that almost half of those surveyed (44%) were not confident in how to check their own moles at home for skin cancer.
Here we will explain how to check your own moles at home and when it is advised to seek expert services from a mole check clinic.
HOW TO SELF CHECK 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 such as your back.
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.
Moles can look very different to each other which can make it hard to identify moles which may be worrying, but 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.
WHAT DOES A MALIGNANT MOLE LOOK LIKE?
Moles are growths on the skin that are usually brown or black, they can appear anywhere on the body, alone or in groups and it’s normal to have between 10-40 moles by adulthood. Having moles on the skin is common, but if they have changed, if new ones appear or you think they look different for any reason there may be a cause for concern.
Melanoma is a skin cancer that usually starts in the skin and develops when skin cells begin to develop abnormally. It can start in a mole or even in normal looking 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. In most cases, melanomas are more than one colour and are irregular in shape, can have uneven borders and they can sometimes be itchy and bleed.
WHEN SHOULD YOU VISIT A DERMATOLOGIST FOR MOLE CHECKING?
If you notice any suspicious changes in a mole, such as the ones outlined above, you should see an expert dermatologist for a professional mole check as soon as possible. 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.
Research has shown that professional mole checks by dermatologists catch melanoma skin cancer when it is thinner in size and earlier in its development, meaning there is a much higher survival rate. Melanoma caught early has about a 99% survival rate of five years, whereas if you catch it later, this rate can drop to around 60%.
If the mole needs to be removed, it will be tested in the lab to confirm whether it was cancerous and that all of the cancer cells have been successfully taken away. Sometimes, additional 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 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.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SELF MOLE CHECKING AND MOLE CHECKING CLINICS
It is really important to regularly check and monitor your moles at home for any changes and to take steps to protect yourself from the risk of skin cancer, such as wearing sunscreen and covering the skin when out in the sun.
A professional mole check at a mole check clinic can be hugely reassuring as they can help to diagnose melanoma skin cancer early, which is vital for quick treatment and better long term outcomes. A dermatologist mole check is also an opportunity to get professional advice on how to check your moles at home and how to protect your skin when out in the sun.
There are a couple of different mole check services offered in a mole check clinic which are far more detailed and advanced than can be achieved with an at home mole check:
Full body mole check at Everything Skin Clinic
During your dermatologist full body mole check, you will be seen by one of our expert consultant dermatologists. They will examine your skin using a dermatoscope, focusing on every mole and lesion. A dermatoscope uses a high-quality lens for 10 to 14-times magnification and a lighting system which enables visualization of subsurface structures and patterns. Dermatoscope helps dermatologists to distinguish benign moles from malignant (cancerous) lesions, especially in the diagnosis of melanoma – the most serious skin cancer, something that is very hard to do with the naked eye alone.
Full body mole map at Everything Skin Clinic
Full body mole mapping using the Fotofinder system, provides state of the art laser guided computer mapping of your entire skin and gives high-resolution images of individual moles. The machine uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to assess each mole and provide a risk cancer analysis. The images which are taken by the machine are also analysed by your consultant dermatologist.
A huge benefit of dermatologist mole mapping, and how it differs from a more traditional mole check, is that the images the machine takes are mapped and recorded. When you come in for a check-up, either one year later or if you notice any changes to your skin, your body will be imaged again and these will be compared to the previous images. It’s the ability to compare images and identify changes makes it a highly accurate tool in the development of skin cancer.If the mole mapping procedure identifies that a mole is a cause for concern or is cancerous, Everything Skin Clinic provides a mole removal service.
Dermatologists have specialist training in dermatology, dermoscopy and pattern recognition, allowing them to differentiate benign (harmless) moles from dysplastic (abnormal) moles and melanoma (skin cancer). This allows early removal of dangerous moles and prevents unnecessary removal of benign moles.
To book an appointment to get your moles checked by one of our experts at our mole mapping clinic, you can book online, fill out an enquiry form or 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.
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Friday: 10:00am - 4:00pm
Alternate Saturdays: 10:00am - 4:00pm
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