Checking your moles: How to know when they're dangerous - or need removing

It’s vital we’re self-checking our moles for changes [Photo: Lum3n.com – Snufkin via Pexels]

We all know about the importance of checking our moles, but in the winter time when we’re covered in layers it’s sorta difficult to even find our moles, let alone check whether there have been any changes.

But with spring just around the corner (*crosses fingers*), now could be the perfect time to get mole-savvy.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, affecting 1 in 10 people. Sadly cases of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of cancer, are on the rise, particularly amongst the fair-skinned. According to Cancer Research UK, malignant melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, and the second most common form of cancer in people under 50 years of age.

Fortunately, the vast majority of these cases can be cured if detected early. Both self-checking our moles and getting them checked by an expert can greatly help in the early detection of anything abnormal.

The NHS recommends that we check our moles every few months to try to spot whether we are at risk from conditions such as skin cancer. But what should we be looking for? And why?

“We should make the most of sunshine when it arrives but it is important to take precautions and not bask in it too generously,” advises Anna Gucova, Nurse Specialist at The Mole Clinic.

“Damage to the skin can occur from sun exposure to the sun and cannot be reversed,” she continues. But Anna says there are some precautionary steps you can take to prevent yourself from further damage including avoiding sun bed use and following common sun safety advice, such as wearing sunscreen with high SPF and UVA rating whilst also avoiding burning completely.

And the importance of checking your moles cannot be underestimated. The Mole Clinic believe early detection would reduce the number of deaths drastically in the UK, which currently stands at over 2,000 per year (more than Australia).

But how do we know what to look for?

Anna believes self-monitoring is easier than we might think and suggests we follow the ‘ABCDE rule’ on what you should be looking out for:

A: Look for moles that are asymmetrical in shape, where one half of the mole is unlike the other

B: Does the mole have an irregular border? Is it scalloped, jagged or poorly defined?

C: Is the colour of the mole different from one area to another or does it have different shades of tan, brown or black?

D: Check the diameter of the mole to see if it is bigger than 7mm (about the size of the end of a pencil)

E: Is the mole evolving or changing size, shape or colour?

“It is really important to take note of ‘E’,” advises Anna. “As any mole that is evolving or changing needs to be examined by an expert right away.”

With summer just around the corner, its time to get mole-savvy [Photo: unsplash via Pexels]

And your mobile phone can also come in use for helping to track changes in your moles. “The use of a phone with a camera can be a useful aid in keeping track of moles that are not easy to reach,” says Anna. “Make use of family and friends to take a photograph. If your before and after photos show changes, it is important to go get it checked by an expert. Compare these to the A to E self-monitoring tips above.”

With that in mind AXA PPP healthcare has put together some other mole facts to help you stay skin-safe this year.

  • Melanomas can appear on any part of the body, but they are most common on the chest and back for men, and on the legs for women, so when checking your moles try to pay particular attention to these areas.
  • The more moles someone has on their body, the higher the risk of Melanoma.
  • Moles are clusters of cells that produce a pigment in your skin and it’s normal to have them, but always keep an eye out for any change to the appearance of an existing mole and monitor your skin regularly to see if any more develop.

How often do you check your moles? Let us know @YahooStyleUK

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