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Why You Need to Check your Moles

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a time to educate yourself on the causes of skin cancer and how to best prevent it, as well as the treatments that are 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% 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 – especially moles for any changes. Dr Shaaria, Consultant Dermatologist at sk:n Clinics, gives her expert advice 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 their 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 sun bed 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 for example, fair skin, have had multiple episodes of sunburn or sunbed use, strong family history of skin cancer, or has had skin cancer previously, then 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 out 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 then it is best to see a dermatologist for a full mole mapping service such as the ones available at sk:n Clinics to be safe.

How does the mole mapping and checking process work at sk:n?

During your appointment 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, then a shave excision can be performed, however if it is to rule out skin cancer then a full excision is needed which will require stiches.

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.

Mole Mapping at sk:n starts from £145 for your first session. It is advised to have another check after six months, then just one annual appointment going forwards. You can find out more about Mole Mapping services at sk:n here.

About sk:n

sk:n is the UK’s largest network of specialist skin care clinics, and is passionate about providing the highest quality of treatment and care to patients to help them rediscover their skin confidence. Their 60 plus clinics across the country are regulated by the CQC, the Health Inspectorate Wales, and Health Improvement Scotland. Their clinics are home to over 450 consultant doctors, nurses, and medical practitioners all of whom are registered with the GMC, NMC or GDC. Further to this they have partnered with the Junior Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) since 2016 and together they strive for better patient safety and the development of strict, accredited regulations for the aesthetics industry.

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