Moles, Skin Tags and Freckles
Part 1 – MOLES
At Cosmedica Clinics we are often asked to take a look at skin lesions such as moles, skin tag, freckles and blemishes. We should all be very conscious of these as well as any lumps and bumps, and seek a medical opinion if there is any suspicion that it might be serious.
The trouble is we all have blemishes and most of us develop moles and odd skin changes at some time in our lives. How can you tell if there is any need to worry?
So, lets start by looking at the most common growth that most of us have somewhere on our body, the common mole. On average, we each have between 10-40 moles scattered around our bodies and they often appear when we are young and develop as we grow up.
Moles are very common and I have a few myself that I keep an eye on. Moles are usually dark brown spots in the skin that don’t irritate and just sit there doing nothing and of course most are entirely harmless. A mole is a collection of melanin pigment in one small cluster and most harmless moles are round or oval, flat and smooth.
So why do we worry about moles?
Simply put, it’s because sometimes a mole can become cancerous, and we call that a melanoma. We are not sure why some moles do that but we do know for sure that excessive sun and UV light exposure puts us at greater risk. People in the southern hemisphere are perhaps more aware of the risks and their health system includes clinics for mole checks with a heightened public awareness of what to look for and have a strong emphasis on safe measures for sun exposure.
Since we all have some moles what should you do then to stay safe………..
- First thing is to protect the skin from excess sun exposure and sun burn. If you want to get that summer tan then make sure you use effective and high SPF grade sun protection and beware the use of sun beds since UVB radiation from sun beds is associated with a greater risk of melanoma.
- Think about taking a photo of your moles so that if you think anything is changing you can look back at the old photos and remind yourself what the changes might be.
- When should we get a mole checked? Well, simply put, if a mole begins to show signs of changing it would be a good time to check with your GP.
The simplest advice is to report any new or existing mole that starts itching, crusting flaking or bleeding, or if a mole starts getting bigger or changes shape, then contact your GP.
Have a look at the ABCDE rules that doctors consider important to help pick up early signs that a mole may be turning cancerous like a melanoma.
The ABCDE rules for checking moles
A is for ASYMMETRY
Asymmetry means it’s become lopsided or not so much round or oval anymore. Put an imaginary line down the middle of the mole and see if both sides can match each other like a mirror reflection? If not, it is asymmetrical and needs checking.
B is for BORDER
Is the edge of the mole becoming irregular and like a map of the ragged coast of Scotland? (The border of a harmless mole is usually smooth and not ragged.
C is for COLOUR
Moles are brown colour usually. The important sign is to look for a darkening of colour or if it starts to develop different colours or variations in colour within the mole.
D is for DIAMETER
Most harmless moles are usually small, less than 6mm in diameter. If a mole is growing and larger than 6mm then get it checked.
E is for EVOLUTION
Evolution means If there is any sign of the mole is starting to get bigger or change shape, or becoming raised it will need checking.
I’ve had a mole for many years since childhood so surely it can’t be cancerous?
Sadly, for some people this is not a safe approach. Long standing moles can turn into melanoma any time even after many years. So please don’t delay if you see any changes.
Are there different types of mole cancer?
Yes, and some are not so serious as the melanoma, but we take all moles very serious because in the worst cases a melanoma cancer can spread quickly to other parts of the body and be very difficult to treat.
What will the doctor do when checking the mole?
The doctor is likely to ask you questions about any changes or symptoms from the mole and will examine the mole, measuring it and looking at the colour and border. The doctor will usually use a special magnifying skin light called a dermascope to highlight the fine details of the mole in the skin. If there is any suspicion that the mole might be cancerous you will be referred urgently to a specialist clinic and it can be fully removed very quickly.
“… no remedy is known for the black cancer. The only chance of benefit depends upon early removal of the disease by operation.” Samuel Cooper (1840)
Keep safe and remember the message
- Protect your skin (especially moles) from the sun
- See your doctor urgently if have a mole that is changing or that you are worried about.
I will be back with some more to talk about, with skin tags and other skin blemishes, in our next blog.
For further advice contact the clinic on 01983566680 or email email@example.com
Stay skin aware and stay safe.
Dr Kieron Cooney