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A dermatologist reveals why you need to check your moles

It's Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so now’s the time to get wise to skin cancer and how to prevent it, as well as the treatments available

According to Cancer Research UK, there are over 16,000 new cases of melanoma skin cancer every year in the UK, and this is increasing year on year. Of these cases, 86 per cent are preventable.
The earlier skin cancer is spotted and treated the better the outlook is, which is why it is so important to regularly check your skin and moles for any changes. We hear from Dr Shaaria, Consultant Dermatologist at sk:n Clinics on how to prevent skin cancer, what to look out for in moles and what to expect from a mole mapping service.

How can people prevent skin cancer in daily life?

Certain lifestyle choices can help to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer. It is best to avoid becoming sunburnt as much as possible, which can be done by wearing SPF daily, avoiding sunbed use, avoiding the sun when it is at its highest (11am-3pm) and wearing clothing that protects and covers the skin, for example sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat. I always advise my patients to avoid smoking for a plethora of health reasons including preventing cancer. It is crucial that people are self-checking for any new or changing moles.

How often should people check their moles?

I think it is a good idea for everyone to check their moles and skin. For those who are high risk–fair skin, have had multiple episodes of sunburn or sunbed use, a strong family history of skin cancer or have had skin cancer previously–moles should be checked at least once a year. People should also look out for any scaly red marks or bumps that don't heal.

What should people look for when checking moles?

People should check their moles against the ABCDE criteria (asymmetry, border, colour, diameter, evolution). To monitor any changes yourself you can take photos to keep track, however if you are unsure about a mole or have many, it is best to see a dermatologist for a full mole mapping service.

How does the mole mapping process work?

During your appointment at sk:n we take a full history of your moles, carrying out a risk assessment to determine if you are at high risk of developing skin cancer. Then a full skin check is performed using a dermatoscope. If a mole looks irregular or is changing in appearance based on the ABCDE criteria, then it needs removing.

How does the mole removal process work?

All moles are removed under local anaesthetic. If removal is for cosmetic reasons, a shave excision can be performed, however if it is to rule out skin cancer then a full excision is needed which will require stitches. If the mole is for suspected skin cancer, a 2mm margin is needed when removing. This can cause the scar to be double the size of the mole. If skin cancer is detected, we will then refer the patient back to their GP to be seen under the NHS as they will need a multidisciplinary approach.

Where to get your moles checked

If you’ve spotted something you would like to get checked, make an appointment with your GP or a dermatologist. Alternatively, try a specialist clinic such as the following:

EV Expert Dr Ross Perry offers comprehensive mole mapping at Cosmedics locations in London and Bristol for £190; he is also available for virtual consultations.

Mole Mapping at sk:n starts from £145 for the first session. It is advised to have another check after six months, then just one annual appointment going forwards.

The Mole Clinic has locations across the UK and offers screening, diagnosis, removal and biopsy of moles. Again, an annual check up is advised. Costs are from £50 for a single mole diagnostic report.

Ross Perry, Medical Director

Dr Ross Perry is a leading aesthetic and dermatology doctor who specialises in botulinum toxins (Botox), fillers and...

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