What Does a Cancerous Mole Look Like? And how to Seek Advice
Checking your moles is a task that we all know we should do, yet very few of us actually take the time to do it regularly. However, with skin cancer topping the list as one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK it’s crucial to stay on top of your moles and keep protected with a broad-spectrum SPF.
Many of us grew up with a smattering of moles or freckles – due to melanin overproduction as your skin tries to protect you from the sun – but it’s when they begin to change or look abnormal that you need to be cautious.
The best thing that you can do is arm yourself with the signs to look out for when checking your moles and act fast if you do spot any changes before they develop into anything more serious – consider this your guide.
Why is it so important to check your moles regularly?
Checking your moles is crucial in diagnosing Melanoma, a type of skin cancer that is the 5th most common cancer in the UK.
Certain things can increase your chances of developing Melanoma, such as having lots of moles or freckles, very fair skin, blonde or red hair, a family history of skin cancer, taking certain types of immunosuppressants or using sunbeds. If you fall into one of these categories, it’s even more crucial to keep on top of your mole checks.
What should you look out for?
Firstly, if one of your moles looks very different from the others, it’s essential to get it checked out by a doctor.
Remember that Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body, including the palms of the hands, in-between the fingers and on the soles of the feet. The most common areas at risk of skin cancer on men are the back, arms, head, and chest, whilst the most common in women are the upper chest, arms, shoulders, legs and back.
Use the ABCDE method to monitor your moles at home. Begin in a well-lit room with access to both a full-length and handheld mirror, as this will help you view hard to reach areas such as your back. It may be helpful to have someone else check these areas, too, if possible.
A is for asymmetrical shape where one half of the mole doesn’t match the other.
B is for border. Check the outline of your mole for edges that are ragged, blurred or irregular. The pigment may have even spread into the surrounding skin.
C is for colour. Do you see shades of black, brown, and tan? Or even areas of white, grey, red, pink or blue.
D is for diameter. Do you see a change in the size of your mole? Has it gotten bigger?
E is for evolving where a mole looks different from the others or has changed in size, shape or colour.
Is it worth having a routine check by a doctor?
Checking and keeping track of your own moles can be difficult, especially if you have a lot or have moles in hard-to-reach areas such as the back and shoulders. However, having a mole screen offers an excellent safeguard against skin cancer by catching suspicious moles before they evolve into anything more serious.
By having your moles checked with a medical professional regularly, especially before or after the summer months, anything new or changing can be easily identified, giving you peace of mind.
What should you do if you spot a change?
If you notice any of the five signs outlined in the ABCDE method or if you’re unsure about a mole, always make an appointment with your GP who, if needed, will refer you to a specialist or look into an alternative service.
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Disclaimer: Please be aware that results and benefits may vary from patient to patient taking into consideration factors such as age, lifestyle and medical history.