Mole Check Guide
Autumn is a logical and sensible time to book a mole check, but it’s important to keep an eye on both moles and your skin more generally – all year long, Did you know, contrary to popular belief, some estimates suggest 70 to 80 percent of melanomas arise on ‘normal’ skin, while only 20 to 30 percent from mole irregularities. Skin cancer is varied and very difficult to assess or dismiss on your own. A consultant dermatologist is the first port of call if you have any doubts or concerns – or if you haven’t had a mole check before – but these simple tips can help give you some clarity.
The ABCDE test is a well-known and easy to remember guide for checking your own skin and potentially identifying any warning signs:
A is for Asymmetry
Typically, melanomas are asymmetrical, so this is an easy visual criteria for mole-checking. Draw an imaginary line through the centre of the mole or lesion and make sure both halves match. Most common moles are either round or oval-shaped so determining asymmetry should not be too difficult.
B is for Border
Normal or common moles have smooth, ‘clean’ or even borders – they are well-defined, distinct and unchanging. Conversely, melanoma borders are often uneven – they may have notched or ragged looking edges or a ‘scalloped’ appearance. Edges that are blurred or seem to blend into the surrounding skin may also be a cause for concern.
C is for Colour
Benign moles are usually one consistent colour – mostly a single uniform shade of brown. Melanomas can be mottled in appearance, often a mixture of brown, black or a lighter tan colour. As it changes a melanoma can develop white, red and even blue shades – but any colour irregularity needs to be investigated.
D is for Diameter (or Dark)
Size is a definite red flag when it comes to melanoma. If a mole or lesion is larger than 6mm (commonly referred to as at the size of a pencil eraser) it should be regularly examined by a dermatologist. Any change in size, no matter how small, should be investigated. ‘D for Dark’ emphasises the danger of darkening lesions, and also the importance of monitoring pre-existing dark moles. Generally, darkness is a warning sign, however entirely colourless melanomas also occur (rarely) – so it’s important to keep an open mind.
E is for Evolving
Evolving is a catch-all term for any change in a mole’s appearance – colour, shape, size or behaviour (itching, crusting or bleeding). Another ‘evolution’ to watch out for is elevation – if a mole becomes higher, harder or more pronounced in any way, see your dermatologist.
Examining yourself head-to-toe at least once a month – and promptly discussing any concerns with a doctor – significantly improves your chances of catching skin cancer early. However – checking yourself is not a fool-proof method and a yearly full-body mole-check, including mole-mapping if offered, is the best way to keep your skin safe.
Santi Mole Clinic
Everyone develops some moles especially during childhood and adolescence. There are several different types of moles. During youth, more moles begin to appear, and existing ones darken. Nevus cells will eventually be replaced with a fibrous tissue. Moles typically change consistency, becoming softer or firmer and less pigmented over the years.
An individual mole is unlikely to become malignant. However, patients with large numbers of benign moles (greater than 50) have an increased risk of developing melanoma. You should come in for periodic checks and be taught how to spot for issues.
At Santi we offer mole checks and preventative services as well as prompt treatment for skin cancers, pre-cancers and sun damage.
About Skin Cancer
There are four main types of skin cancer.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Around 80% of skin cancers develop from basal cells, found in the lower epidermis. Basal cell carcinoma is usually caused by sun exposure, most often developing on the head or neck – however it can develop anywhere. It’s a slow growing skin cancer and only rarely spreads to other areas of the body.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cells are flat skin cells which make up the bulk of the epidermis. Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for about 20% of skin cancers and is usually caused by sun exposure.
It tends to develop on areas exposed to the sun and also on skin which has been burned or damaged. Squamous cell carcinoma is more likely to spread to other parts of the body – at a rate of 2% to 5% – than basal cell carcinoma.
Merkel Cell Cancer
This is a rare and aggressive cancer which begins in hormone producing cells under the skin and in hair follicles – typically in the head and neck.
Melanocytes are the cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its colour. They are found between the dermis and the epidermis. Melanoma develops in melanocytes. It is the most serious type of skin cancer.