How to carry out a mole check and protect your skin in summer
The Evening Standard Online
Most people with moles know they should check them regularly for signs of skin cancer, but how many of us actually know what we’re looking for?
It’s important to get to know your skin and what is normal for you, so that you notice any changes, particularly as skin cancers rarely hurt and are much more frequently seen than felt.
While not all skin cancers are deadly, melanoma, the most dangerous and third-most-common kind, is extremely deadly if not found early.
If you don’t regularly keep track of the moles on your body Dr Almaani, Consultant Dermatologist at The Private Clinic of Harley Street, has provided tips and insight on how to carry out regular mole checks and protect your skin this summer.
Here’s everything you need to know:
How to check your moles
It is important to get into the habit of self-monitoring your moles, and to always report any changes to your GP who will then refer you on to a dermatologist if the diagnosis is uncertain, or if there is a suspicion of cancer.
Keep track of your moles
It is much easier to spot a change if you are checking your moles regularly. It is important to know where on your body you have moles, and to be aware of any changes as you age. You can always ask your partner, or a friend to check the moles you cannot see clearly yourself. Photographs are useful and can help keep track of moles particularly when you have many.
It is normal to have between 10 and 40 moles by the age of 40, and if you have always had moles and one of them starts to change, that is the time to make an appointment with your GP. It is also important to monitor any new moles which may appear.
What to look for
When checking your moles, the general advice is that, if you notice any changes or unusual growths then it is best to seek medical advice early on. Do not ignore the warning signs which can manifest in the form of itching, pain, bleeding or a change in colour.
It is easier to follow the ABCDE rule by monitoring for changes in:
• Asymmetry – when two halves of the moles do not look the same
• Border (irregularity) – blurred or jagged edges of the mole
• Colour – more than one shade present in the mole
• Diameter (size)- if you notice a change in the size of the mole
• Evolution – change over time, itching, bleeding).
Preventative measures you can take
Understand the difference between UVA and UVB
UVA forms the majority of UV light and contributes to skin ageing and the development of skin cancer as it penetrates deeper into the skin (the main UV rays emitted by sunbeds). UVB is more intense and leads to the redness and sunburn that is indicative of some degree of DNA damage which in turn can potentially lead to genetic mutations and skin cancers.
Apply sun cream
This may seem like an obvious one, but people often overestimate the protection they are getting from their sun cream, and will also often opt out of wearing it on cloudy days. This is not a good idea because the sun’s rays can penetrate cloud, and can have damaging effects all year round.
Using the published teaspoon rule, an average of 6 teaspoons should be sufficient to cover an adult body (half a teaspoon to each arm, head and neck, one teaspoon to each leg, chest and back).
To increase sun protection it is best if sun creams are applied 20 minutes before wearing clothes/going out, and use a higher SPF. Ideally another layer should be applied an hour later for maximum effect, and every few hours thereafter particularly when sweating and swimming.
Don’t forget lip protection as sun damage and cancers can develop in this area.