Moles arise where cells called melanocytes have clustered together. Melanocytes produce melanin pigment which gives your skin its colour.
They may change shape or colour with time and some may even go away.
Moles vary in colour and can be raised or have hairs growing from them. The medical term for a mole is a naevus.
Moles are mostly harmless. However, sometimes they can develop into skin cancer. Very large moles have a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Some are are more likely to progress into a malignant melanoma (a type of skin cancer).
Who is affected
Melanoma is becoming more common. Incidence rates in Great Britain have more than quadrupled over the last thirty years! There are currently almost 13,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the UK. A third of all cases occur in people under 55.
Melanoma is the 2nd most common cancers in people aged 15-34 and is responsible for most skin cancer deaths. More than 2,000 people die every year in the UK due to melanoma.
Over the last thirty years, rates of melanoma in Great Britain have risen faster than any of the current top ten cancers.
People from the most affluent areas are more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than those from the more deprived areas.
The good news is that if the signs and symptoms are spotted early it’s easier to treat…. It’s a must to check you moles often so that you are aware if they change shape or colour.
Come and see Dr. Anil if any of the following occur:
- a mole has grown in size
- a mole with an uneven edge
- a mole that has varying shades of colour
- a mole that bleeds, discharges or crusts
- a mole that is painful or itchy
- a mole that is not symmetrical in shape
Remember these changes using the ABCDE method:
- A – asymmetry
- B – border irregularity
- C – colour change
- D – diameter greater than 6mm
- E – elevated (raised) or evolving (a mole that is changing in size, shape or colour)
If you’re worried about a mole, we will ask about your symptoms and examine you. We will examine it in detail using a Dermoscope. This is a hand-held magnification tool, much like a magnifying glass, with a light source attached.
It is straightly placed on the skin surface of the patient to analyze the key morphological structures of skin that are on and below the surface of skin that are not easily viewable by the naked eye.
This view of the skin can help with diagnosing skin cancers, especially melanomas and differentiating melanoma skin cancer from more benign pigmented skin lesions.
We may also take a photo of your mole with measurements so that at your next appointment we can see if it has changed at all. This is called mole mapping. This mole check offers most people welcome reassurance.
You Moles, Your Life
Warning – a prevalence of moles on your body may lead to a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
The good news however, is that there is plenty that you can do to reduce the risk.
Here’s one action that will drastically reduce the risk of skin cancer – take extra care when you are out in the sun. You would be surprised how easy it is to get sunburned, especially if you are fair-skinned. If you intend to spend longer than a few minutes out in the sun:
- Apply in generous quantities at least SPF30 sunscreen
- When at the beach or other open space, cover up with a hat, T-shirt and sunglasses
- Seek shade when you can at the hottest times of the day (usually between 11am and 3pm)
These 3 tips can help to prevent sunburn – the most destructive factor when it comes to developing skin cancer.