This seven-step guide massively simplifies checking your moles at homeJuly 21, 2022
Written by Morgan Fargo
Learning how to check your moles is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
Regularly checking moles should be a part of our regular skincare regimen, just like wearing SPF daily and drinking enough water. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and the fifth most common cancer in the UK. It is diagnosed by the appearance of a new mole or changes to an existing moles. Caused by excess sun exposure, it can be life-threatening, with over 16,000 people receiving a melanoma diagnosis in the UK every year.
But it can be tricky to know what to look for. Especially when you’re advised to just look for “changes”. So, to make it easier, Nuffield Health GP and mole expert Unnati Desai has broken it down into a seven-step checklist to observe differences in your moles, as well as how to know when it’s time to seek professional help.
How to check your moles: a seven-step guide
“It can be difficult to tell the difference between a non-cancerous mole and a cancerous one, particularly if you have a lot of moles or freckles,” says Dr Desai. “But there are some tell-tale signs you can look out for. The A to G method provides a good basis for identification of potentially troublesome moles.”
Normal moles or freckles are completely symmetrical. If you were to draw a line through a normal spot, you would have two symmetrical halves. In cases of skin cancer, spots don’t look the same on both sides.
A mole or spot with blurry and/or jagged edges should be seen by a doctor.
A mole that is more than one hue is suspicious and needs to be evaluated by a doctor. Normal spots are usually one colour. This can include the lightening or darkening of the mole. Melanoma cells usually continue to produce melanin, which accounts for the cancers appearing in mixed shades of tan, brown and black.
If it is larger than a pencil eraser (about ¼ inch or 6mm), it needs to be examined by a doctor. This includes areas that do not have any other abnormalities (colour, border, asymmetry). But, don’t be fooled by size alone – melanoma can be smaller.
Elevation means the mole is raised above the surface and has an uneven surface. Evolving means changing in size, shape and colour.
F: Firm on palpation
This means if any of your moles change from a softer, spongier consistency to a firm consistency.
G: Growing progressively over one month
A mole should remain a consistent size. If your mole continues to grow over more than a month, speak to your doctor.
When to get a mole checked
“Moles can develop on any area of your skin, so you should check yourself thoroughly at least once a month using the A to G method. If you notice something unusual or concerning, speak to your doctor immediately for advice. They may advise mole mapping or mole assessment,” says Dr Desai.
Mole mapping – a digital way of screening, plotting and assessing the moles on your body – uses artificial intelligence to identify moles that are or could become cancerous in the future. A machine that takes super-high quality photos, it provides you with a record of every single mole on your body throughout time, making assessment and analysis easier.
4 ways to reduce your risk of melanoma
“Skin damage, especially sunburn, from UV rays is the biggest avoidable risk factor for melanoma. With many people visiting hot and sunny locations during the summer, the risk of getting sunburnt is raised, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself,” says Dr Desai.
“Unfortunately, many people continue to focus on getting tanned on holiday, and there is a false belief that a little sunburn is OK. You should aim to avoid excessive sun exposure when you are outside.”
1. Use SPF
“Use sun cream before you go out in the sun and reapply it regularly throughout the day. When you go swimming, you will need to put on fresh sun cream afterwards. If you are lighter-skinned, have lighter coloured eyes, naturally blonde or red hair, or if you already have a lot of freckles, you will need to be particularly careful. You should aim to use sun cream that has a higher SPF rating of 30 or above.
2. Cover up
“Wear clothing that limits the areas of your skin directly exposed to the sun. Clothes made of lighter fabrics are useful for keeping you cool, and a cap or sun hat will protect your face. Sunglasses are also important for shielding your eyes.
3. Find shade
“Duck into the shade regularly to limit your time in direct sunlight. Avoid the sun when it is at its strongest during the middle part of the day.”
4. Avoid tanning beds
“Stay away from tanning beds as these also produce harmful UV rays that can damage your skin.”
Main image: Getty
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