If you have moles you’ve probably heard that changes to them can mean that there’s an underlying issue, but what exactly are you looking for when you check them yourself, and when do you need to seek professional help?
We asked Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, for her advice so you can be armed with the best info on how to keep your moles – and skin – safe.
Should I get my moles checked if they’ve always been there and haven’t changed shape or colour?
“It’s still worth checking them regularly just in case. The better you know your moles, the more likely you are to notice if there’s a change in the future.”
How often do I need to get my moles checked?
“Most dermatologists recommend you self-exam your skin on a monthly basis. The purpose of this is to detect unusual growths or changes early. The ideal time is probably after a bath or shower and should be carried out in a well-lit room with the aid of a full-length mirror.
“It is important to look closely at the entire body, including the scalp, buttocks and genitalia, palms and soles including the spaces between the fingers and toes. It may be helpful to seek assistance from a trusted individual to examine the hard-to-see areas.”
What could changes to my moles mean?
“Changes to a mole could mean skin cancer, so it’s always best to get it checked, rather than ignore it.”
What changes to my moles should I be looking out for?
“The acronym ABCDE can be extremely helpful in evaluating moles. If a mole shows any of these features, you should go and see your doctor:
Asymmetry: one half of the mole is different to the other
Border: irregular, scalloped or poorly defined edge
Colour: uneven colour or variable colours within a mole
Diameter: the mole is bigger than 6mm in size
Evolving: the mole is changing in its size, shape or colour
“Other signs to look out for include any new moles, a mole that looks significantly different to the others (known as the ‘ugly duckling’ sign), or any skin lesion that bleeds or fails to heal.
“The most important thing is to seek medical advice early. Any concerns should prompt a visit to a dermatologist, who will perform a full skin examination, and may go on to either remove a mole or take a sample or biopsy of any unusual growths or patches on the skin.”
Should I be using extra special sunscreen if I have moles?
“If you have very fair skin I would always recommend you use at least SPF30 or higher alongside other precautions, such as protective clothing and seeking shade between 11am-3pm, when the sun is strongest.
“Don’t forget to apply plenty of sunscreen at least 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. You’ll need to reapply at least every two hours or after swimming/sweating. Make sure you cover every area, as eyelids, feet, backs of legs, ears and lips can sometimes be forgotten!”
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Image: Katie Edmunds