Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, but treatable if detected early – which is where check-ups come in.
Mole checks are usually done by doctors to detect any changes in moles that could indicate melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
A mole is a small, often slightly rasied blemish on the skin made dark by a high concentration of melanin. Most moles are benign (harmless) and do not need treatment. However, some molar lesions may be precancerous or cancerous.
A mole check is a simple procedure where a doctor examines your skin and looks for any changes in color, size, shape, texture, or location. If there are any suspicious spots, the doctor will biopsy them to determine if they are benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). The doctor will then send the tissue sample to a lab for analysis.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people who have moles should get them checked every year. If you notice anything unusual about your mole, such as changing color, size, shape, or bleeding, see your doctor right away. Melanomas are often found early because they cause symptoms, such as pain, itching, redness, swelling, or bleeding.
Skin cancer can often be identified when the lesion is not healing – for example, many (but not all) patients describe it as they “feel like they bumped themselves or picked at their skin and it just won’t heal”. This could be a sign of a Basal Cell Carcinoma, which is the most common form of skin cancer and tends to be on the most sun-exposed areas of our skin. This is easy to treat when picked up early, so regular self-checks (monthly) and full annual checks are recommended.
The second type of skin cancer – Squamous Cell Carcinoma – appears as scaly red patches, open sores, rough, thickened, or wart-like skin. Untreated they can become dangerous and disfiguring, but fortunately, they are easily treated when excised from the skin under local anaesthetic.
Finally, the third type of skin cancer is the most dangerous – Melanoma. It can infiltrate into the blood stream and to the vital organs. The earlier that you are diagnosed, the better.
If you would like all your moles checked, make sure this is done by qualified doctors, who have the right equipment (such as a dermatoscope) and the experience to give you the information and the check that you need.
Often, if they find there is cause for concern, the doctor can take the mole off there and then, or take a little nibble out of it, so it can be sent for analysis in the lab.
If you’re looking for a mole check near you, book an appointment with us here. We are also happy to answer all your mole-related questions, so do get in touch if you’d like an informal chat about your options.