Melanoma skin cancer is often identified by a change to an existing mole or a formation of a new mole. The average adult has between 10-40 moles so it can be very hard to keep track of them all and notice them changing over time. Getting in a routine of regular, thorough self mole checks are vital in the detection of skin cancer, allowing quick treatment and better long term outcomes.
In a recent study conducted by The Dermatology Partnership, of which Everything Skin Clinic is part of, it has been found that lots of people aren’t sure how to check their own moles or what to be looking for. The study asked 1,000 Brits about their mole checking behaviour and found that 45% of people are not confident that they know the signs of skin cancer or what to look out for during a mole check. This is a worrying statistic and shows that more work needs to be done to educate people on how to check their own moles at home as identifying skin cancer early is vital.
WHAT TO CHECK FOR WHEN SELF MOLE CHECKING
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 in any way. 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.
It is important to note that many people will find their moles changing due to hormonal changes which is completely normal and isn’t a cause for concern. During pregnancy moles may get darker in colour, during puberty more moles may begin to appear and from around the age of 40-50, many people experience their moles fading or disappearing. A change is always worth a check so if you are worried about anything, it is best to get it checked to give you peace of mind.
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.
DON’T FORGET YOUR ABCDE’s
To help with home mole checking, an easy to remember acronym is often used to help you identify any worrying mole changes.
A: Asymmetry – moles should be symmetrical and a common sign of melanoma is an asymmetrical mole. If you were to draw a line through the middle of your mole or lesion and the two halves don’t match, then you should get it checked by a dermatologist. A common benign mole is often round or oval and symmetrical.
B: Border – if your mole has uneven borders then it could be malignant. Borders to look out for are uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges. Benign moles usually have smoother, even borders where the mole ends. If your mole shape changes to have an uneven border this could be a sign of melanoma.
C: Colour – if a single mole contains multiple colours within it when it could be a cause for concern. Benign moles are usually a single shade of brown, whereas melanoma may have different shades of browns, tan or blacks within it. Red, white and blue colours have also been identified in malignant moles and mole colour changes should be looked out for.
D: Diameter – malignant moles are likely to be larger than benign moles. A warning sign is when a mole or lesion is about the size of an eraser on the top of a pencil, about 6mm or 1.4 inch in diameter. This can be measured at home during your mole check routine and mole size changes should be noted. It is ideal to detect melanoma when it is small and in its early stages so it is important to not let your mole grow too big before you seek the services of a mole check clinic for a professional check.
E: Evolution – if your mole is changing, or evolving in any way over time then it may be cancerous. Any change in its size, shape, colour or evolution may be a warning sign, as well as any new symptoms seen inside the mole such as bleeding, itching or crusting of the skin.
It is a good idea to take regular photos of your moles at home so any of these evolutions or changes to your moles can be quickly identified and you can get a professional dermatologist mole check.
MOLE CHECKING SIGNS THAT YOU NEED TO VISIT A DERMATOLOGIST
If during your own mole checks you identify anything you are worried about or 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 a professional mole check. 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.
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.
To recap, the things you need to be booking out for when checking your moles include:
- Any changes to an existing mole including size, shape or colour
- A new large brownish spot with darker speckles
- A mole that is bleeding or becoming crusty
- A mole with an irregular border and areas which are red, pink, white or blue
- A painful mole which itches or burns
As well as regularly checking and monitoring your moles at home for any changes, it is important 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.
MOLE TYPE BY LOCATION
Melanoma skin cancer can be seen anywhere on the body but there are certain areas where moles are more often identified as being cancerous. In women, melanoma is often seen on the lower legs, with 42% of melanomas identified here. In men, cancerous moles are commonly found on the head, neck, chest and back, with these areas accounting for 60% of malignant moles.
As the development of melanoma is often associated with sun exposure, moles which are located in areas of the body which are exposed to the sun are more likely to turn cancerous. Moles which are protected from sun exposure are less likely to be a cause for concern, however it is still important to check all your moles, even in hard to reach areas during your at home mole check.
OTHER SKIN SIGNS TO LOOK OUR FOR AND WHEN TO CONSIDER A DERMATOLOGIST
Not all skin cancers are indicated by a new mole or a change to an existing mole and there may be other skin signs that you need to see a dermatologist.
There are three main types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma. The first two are both known as non-melanoma skin cancer, are the most common varieties and are not identified by the change to a mole.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) forms in the cells which line the epidermis layer of the skin and accounts for around 75% to 80% of all skin cancers. Basal cell carcinoma is very unlikely to spread to other areas of the body and can be treated effectively. The earlier it is diagnosed and treated the better, as if left untreated, skin cancer can be fatal. Basal cell carcinomas can appear anywhere on the body, but most commonly found on areas of the body which are more frequently exposed to sunlight, including the face, head, neck and ears. There are several variants of basal cell carcinoma and in all cases, the lump may slowly get bigger, become crusty, bleed or develop into a painless ulcer:
- Superficial basal cell carcinomas appear as a red, scaly plaque and might resemble psoriasis or eczema
- Nodular basal cell carcinomas appear as a slightly shiny, pink or pearly-white translucent nodule which may ulcerate centrally and have blood vessels visible on their surface.
- Infiltrative (or morphoeic) basal cell carcinomas are less well-defined plaques and can be difficult to identify.
Squamous cell carcinoma (BCC)
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is less common and accounts for approximately 20% of all non-melanoma skin cancer. Most Squamous cell carcinomas can be cured, however a small amount can spread to other areas of the body, particularly the lymph nodes. Like lots of skin cancers, SCCs can vary in appearance. Most commonly, SCCs appear as a firm, raised lump which has a red, inflamed base and a rough, crusted surface. They tend to grow over time and can develop into an ulcer. The lump often feels sore or tender and can bleed. They can appear anywhere on the body, but most commonly found on areas of the body which are more frequently exposed to sunlight, including the face, head, neck and ears.
If you have noticed a change to a mole or a lesion on the skin that you think is a sign you need to visit a dermatologist, we can help. At our mole check clinic, there are a few different mole check services on offer. 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.
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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