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When To Check Moles For Skin Cancer

Get To Know Your Skin

Check Your Health Warning Signs of Skin Cancer, Check Your Moles

The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better your chance of avoiding surgery or, in the case of a serious melanoma or other skin cancer, potential disfigurement or even death.

It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and for advice on early detection.

It’s important to get to know your skin and what is normal for you, so that you notice any changes. Skin cancers rarely hurt and are much more frequently seen than felt.

Develop a regular habit of checking your skin for new spots and changes to existing freckles or moles.

What To Do If Youre Worried About A Mole

If youre worried about any of your moles then you should always get them checked by a doctor. You can make an appointment to see your GP, and if needed, they can refer you to a clinic at your local hospital. Or you may choose to have your moles checked privately.

Whether you have two or two hundred moles, its important to take care of your skin. Always seek shade in the middle of the day, wear a long-sleeved top, trousers, a hat and sunglasses and use a high protection sunscreen. And keep checking those moles too!

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  • NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. Melanoma and pigmented lesions., last revised March 2017
  • Nevi. Patient discussions. BMJ Best Practice., last updated February 2019
  • Melanoma warning signs. Skin Cancer Foundation., last reviewed April 2019

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Signs And Symptoms Of Melanoma

The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole.

This can happen anywhere on the body, but the most commonly affected areas are the back in men and the legs in women.

Melanomas are uncommon in areas that are protected from sun exposure, such as the buttocks and the scalp.

In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than 1 colour.

The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed.

Look out for a mole that gradually changes shape, size or colour.

Superficial spreading melanoma are the most common type of melanoma in the UK.

They’re more common in people with pale skin and freckles, and much less common in people with darker skin.

They initially tend to grow outwards rather than downwards, so they do not pose a problem.

But if they grow downwards into the deeper layers of skin, they can spread to other parts of the body.

You should see a GP if you have a mole that’s getting bigger, particularly if it has an irregular edge.

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Why Is It Important To Check Your Moles For Changes With An App

Its important to check your moles for changes, particularly if you have atypical moles or unusually appearing moles. A change in a mole could be a skin cancer sign. You can get to know the appearance of your moles and document their appearance with photos to check them for changes at home, but you should see a physician if you are concerned about one or more of your moles and want an examination if a mole on your skin might be of concern.

What Happens If They Find Something

How to check your moles and freckles for melanoma

If your doctor finds a spot that could be cancerous orpre-cancerous, theyll likely want to take a picture for your medical chart andperform a skin biopsy.

During a biopsy, the doctor will remove a small amount of tissueto be examined under a microscope by a pathologist. This is a simple procedurethat can be done right then and there, in the office. Theyll clean the area ofskin where the spot is located, numb it with an injection of anesthesia, anduse a blade or scalpel to take a sample of the skin. You shouldnt feel anypain, aside from the pinch from the injection.

That sample will be sent to the lab for testing, and your doctor willshare the results with you when they are available. This usually happens withina few days but could take up to a week or longer.

If the spot turns out to be cancerous, it may need to becompletely removed or treated with other methods, Dr. Riley says.

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Should People Have A Doctor Remove A Dysplastic Nevus Or A Common Mole To Prevent It From Changing Into Melanoma

No. Normally, people do not need to have a dysplastic nevus or common mole removed. One reason is that very few dysplastic nevi or common moles turn into melanoma . Another reason is that even removing all of the moles on the skin would not prevent the development of melanoma because melanoma can develop as a new colored area on the skin . That is why doctors usually remove only a mole that changes or a new colored area on the skin.

Skin Cancer: How Do I Check My Moles For Signs Of Melanoma

Social media influencer Molly-Mae Hague, 21, has been raising awareness about the importance of young people getting moles checked for potential skin cancer. Melanomas can occur relatively frequently among younger age groups, so what are the signs to look for?

“I never knew the word melanoma before,” Darcy Shaw, 22, tells the BBC.

“I didn’t know what the doctor meant when he said it.

“I went to the appointment by myself because I wasn’t expecting to get news like that. It’s not something that’s on your radar as a young person.”

Darcy, a teacher from Salford, was diagnosed with skin cancer in February.

It was her mum who encouraged her to go to the doctor, after spotting – during Darcy’s visits home from university – that a mole on her collarbone was getting larger and darker.

“I think it’s quite hard to see those changes in your body,” says Darcy. “But my family could see it.”

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Looking At Your Mole Or Skin

You will see a skin specialist . They will ask you questions about your mole or abnormal area of skin, such as how long you have had it and what changes you have noticed.

They will look closely at the abnormal area, and will check the rest of your skin for any changes. They usually use a dermatoscope to do this.

Biopsies Of Melanoma That May Have Spread

Mole Check: How to spot skin cancer

Biopsies of areas other than the skin may be needed in some cases. For example, if melanoma has already been diagnosed on the skin, nearby lymph nodes may be biopsied to see if the cancer has spread to them.

Rarely, biopsies may be needed to figure out what type of cancer someone has. For example, some melanomas can spread so quickly that they reach the lymph nodes, lungs, brain, or other areas while the original skin melanoma is still very small. Sometimes these tumors are found with imaging tests or other exams even before the melanoma on the skin is discovered. In other cases, they may be found long after a skin melanoma has been removed, so its not clear if its the same cancer.

In still other cases, melanoma may be found somewhere in the body without ever finding a spot on the skin. This may be because some skin lesions go away on their own after some of their cells have spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma can also start in internal organs, but this is very rare, and if melanoma has spread widely throughout the body, it may not be possible to tell exactly where it started.

When melanoma has spread to other organs, it can sometimes be confused with a cancer starting in that organ. For example, melanoma that has spread to the lung might be confused with a primary lung cancer .

Biopsies of suspicious areas inside the body often are more involved than those used to sample the skin.

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When To Worry About A Mole

Generally, moles are harmless features of your skin, which will never cause any issues. But in some cases, UV exposure from the sun can cause a mole to change shape, size or colour and become cancerous. We explore what you need to look out for.

Reviewed byDr Sarah Jarvis MBE
22-Jun-18·5 mins read

We’re growing more aware of the dangers of the sun’s rays and how important covering up and applying sun cream is, but melanoma skin cancer rates are still increasing. So it’s important we all get into the habit of checking our skin regularly.

“In the good old days, when a tan was a sign of a healthy outdoor life and holidays abroad were a novelty, many of us paid the price of wanting a tan. Some of us never got further than the peeling sunburn some became addicted to sunbeds or spent every free hour in the sun. If any of those sounds like you, you need to be especially aware of the warning signs of skin cancer. But even if it doesn’t, you need to look out for the signs,” says Dr Sarah Jarvis,’s clinical director.

People At Higher Risk Of Melanoma

Some people have a higher than normal risk of developing melanoma. This includes people who have:

  • had a melanoma in the past
  • a family history of melanoma
  • many moles
  • had an organ transplant

If you have any of these, your doctor can refer you to a skin specialist who can show you how to check your skin each month for abnormal moles.

Some people have a much higher than normal risk of melanoma and should have regular checks by a skin cancer specialist. This includes people who:

  • have 2 family members with melanoma and also have a lot of large, irregularly shaped moles
  • were born with a very large mole
  • have 3 or more people in their family diagnosed with melanoma or pancreatic cancer
  • have had more than 1 melanoma

Your skin cancer specialist or nurse can examine your skin. They are trained to look out for moles that may be starting to become cancerous. If you have any moles that could be a melanoma, they can remove them at the clinic. By removing suspicious moles early, they can prevent an invasive melanoma developing.

  • Revised guidelines for the management of cutaneous melanoma 2010JR Marsden and others

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The Abcdes Of Melanoma

The first five letters of the alphabet are a guide to help you recognize the warning signs of melanoma.

A is for Asymmetry. Most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves dont match, so it looks different from a round to oval and symmetrical common mole.

B is for Border. Melanoma borders tend to be uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges, while common moles tend to have smoother, more even borders.

C is for Color. Multiple colors are a warning sign. While benign moles are usually a single shade of brown, a melanoma may have different shades of brown, tan or black. As it grows, the colors red, white or blue may also appear.

D is for Diameter or Dark. While its ideal to detect a melanoma when it is small, its a warning sign if a lesion is the size of a pencil eraser or larger. Some experts say it is also important to look for any lesion, no matter what size, that is darker than others. Rare, amelanotic melanomas are colorless.

E is for Evolving. Any change in size, shape, color or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, may be a warning sign of melanoma.

If you notice these warning signs, or anything NEW, CHANGING or UNUSUAL on your skin see a dermatologist promptly.

A is for Asymmetry

D is for Diameter or Dark

E is for Evolving

E is for Evolving

Take Matters Into Your Own Hands With Self

How to Be Smarter About Skin Cancer

Regardless of how often you see your dermatologist, you should doyour best to monitor your own skin and that of your partner or close familymembers.

Grab a mirror and perform a skin exam of your own every three tosix months, Dr. Riley suggests.

Look for moles or spots that:

  • Have changed in size, shape or color overtime.
  • Bleed or do not heal after several weeks.
  • Are asymmetrical or have irregular borders.
  • Are larger than ¼ inch in size.

And, above all else, practice safe sun habits to prevent skin cancer from developing in the first place.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Skin Cancer

Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesnt heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.

A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This could be a new growth, a sore that doesnt heal, or a change in a mole.external icon Not all skin cancers look the same.

For melanoma specifically, a simple way to remember the warning signs is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma

  • A stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
  • B stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
  • C is for color. Is the color uneven?
  • D is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
  • E is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?

Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesnt heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.

Who Can Check My Moles

Your skin cancer specialist or nurse can examine your skin. They are trained to look out for moles that may be starting to become cancerous. If you have any moles that could be a melanoma, they can remove them at the clinic. By removing suspicious moles early, they can prevent an invasive melanoma developing.

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Early Detection Starts With You

When caught and treated early, skin cancers are highly curable. And in the early stages of skin cancer development, youre the one with the best chance to see changes.

Thats why we recommend that you examine your skin head-to-toe every month. Its a simple but powerful way to look at yourself with a new focus that can save your life.

How Can A Mole Lead To Cancer

do i have skin cancer? skin check & mole biopsy

UV light from the sun or using sunbeds can change the structure of a mole and increase the chance of it becoming cancerous. This is known as melanoma.

“Melanoma is one of the most aggressive forms of skin cancer, which can spread to other organs in the body. The most common sign of melanoma is a change in an existing or new mole. The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed,” reveals Wong.

Of course, not all new, enlarged or changing moles will mean skin cancer. But you should keep an eye on them just in case.

“Making a habit of examining your own skin on a monthly basis will help to detect any abnormal growths quickly. I always advise my patients to check their skin after they have had a bath or a shower, in a well-lit room with a full-length mirror,” Wong adds.

Jarvis says: “Malignant melanoma can affect adults of all ages, and accounts for 90% of skin cancer deaths despite being about 20 times less common than other skin cancers. The biggest risk factor is skin damage, particularly from burning and especially in childhood. A combination of pale skin and a hot climate is particularly risky. Most moles are nothing to worry about, but see your doctor immediately if a mole changes or you don’t pass the ABCDE test.”

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Skin Cancer Screening Schedule

If you have developed new moles, or a close relative has a history of melanoma, you should examine your body once a month. Most moles are benign . Moles that are of greater medical concern include those that look different than other existing moles or those that first appear in adulthood.

If you notice changes in a mole’s color or appearance, you should have a dermatologist evaluate it. You also should have moles checked if they bleed, ooze, itch, appear scaly, or become tender or painful.

Can A Dysplastic Nevus Turn Into Melanoma

Yes, but most dysplastic nevi do not turn into melanoma . Most remain stable over time. Researchers estimate that the chance of melanoma is about ten times greater for someone with more than five dysplastic nevi than for someone who has none, and the more dysplastic nevi a person has, the greater the chance of developing melanoma .

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What Causes Melanoma

Melanoma is caused by skin cells that begin to develop abnormally.

Exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun is thought to cause most melanomas, but there’s evidence to suggest that some may result from sunbed exposure.

The type of sun exposure that causes melanoma is sudden intense exposure. For example, while on holiday, which leads to sunburn.

Certain things can increase your chance of developing melanoma, such as having:

  • lots of moles or freckles
  • pale skin that burns easily
  • red or blonde hair

Read more about the causes of melanoma.


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