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. Occasionally these melanocytes grow in a cluster instead of being spread out, which results in the formation of a mole. Most people have moles on their skin and they are usually nothing to worry about unless they begin to change in appearance, particularly size, shape or colour.
Moles can appear anywhere on the body and can be raised or flat. Sometimes moles are present at birth, but usually they develop in childhood. Genetics can play an important role in the likelihood of an individual developing moles, as can exposure to the sun. Many people also find that their moles change in response to hormonal changes. During pregnancy they may get darker, puberty may cause more moles to appear, and from around the age of 40 to 50 they may begin to fade away and disappear. All of these changes to moles are normal.
Moles can occasionally develop into melanoma skin cancer which affects thousands of people in 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. Understanding your moles, the different mole types and what signs to look out for is vital in catching and treating melanoma skin cancer early.
UNDERSTANDING DIFFERENT MOLE TYPES
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 and are the most common varieties. Malignant Melanoma is less common, accounting for approximately 3% of all skin cancer cases in the UK, which equates to around 16,000 new cases a year. Although less common, malignant melanomas are very serious as they can grow quickly and spread to other organs in the body so it is vital they are diagnosed and treated early. Melanoma 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.
Different types of moles can be categorised into a few main groups:
These moles are as described above and most adults have between 10 and 40 common moles. They often appear later in childhood and can continue to develop until the age of 40. Mole colours are usually brown but can vary from flesh-coloured, to pink, black or blue. They are sometimes flat to the skin, they may be raised and rounded, or warty looking. They are usually quite symmetrical, circular and evenly pigmented and are usually smaller than 5mm in diameter.
These are moles which are present at birth and are seen in about 1 in 100 people as a common type of birthmark. These moles are slightly more likely to develop into melanoma skin cancer than moles which develop after birth. They are often round or oval in shape and usually raised from the skin. They can be single coloured or multicoloured and can vary in size.
These moles are larger than the average mole and are irregular in shape. They look different to normal moles and can have uneven edges and are made up of multiple colours. These types of mole are more likely to develop into melanoma skin cancer and should be carefully monitored for any changes.
LEARN YOUR ABCDE’S
It can be overwhelming knowing that to look for when checking your moles at home due to the importance of not missing any vital signs that you may have developed melanoma skin cancer and the different types of moles that you could have. To help with this, an easy to remember acronym is often used for home mole checks 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 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 on 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.
IDENTIFYING A SUSPICIOUS LOOKING MOLE
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.
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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