What are moles?
Moles are part of normal skin and most of them are completely harmless. They are made up of clusters of pigment cells. Most moles appear at birth or during childhood and adolescence. It is very uncommon to get a new mole over the age of 40 years and many fade away in older individuals. They have a variety of appearances and can be completely flat or raised. They have a round or oval shape with a regular, smooth outline. They vary in colour from skin coloured to dark brown, depending on the location and the individual but rarely have more than two colours within them.
Should I worry about my moles?
Moles can develop melanoma skin cancer within them, and it is therefore important to be aware of signs to look out for. Detecting a suspicious mole as early as possible is important as it significantly improves outcome if they are cancerous. A new mole (in adults) or changing mole should be checked by a doctor. Changes in size, shape and colour in addition to itching, bleeding, flaking and crusting can be signs of skin cancer. Many melanomas can have the appearance of a mole when they first appear but usually look different to the person’s other moles, have symptoms associated with them and change over time.
In individuals who have a large number (>50) of moles and/or who have moles that are irregular in shape and colour (sometimes referred to as atypical or dysplastic moles) or larger than normal moles (>5mm) are at increased risk of developing melanoma and benefit from regular checks by an expert dermatologist in order to identify concerning lesions as early as possible. Individuals with a previous history of significant sun exposure, a family history of melanoma or with previous melanomas also benefit from regular dermatological expert surveillance of their moles.
What is the best way to monitor my moles?
Being aware of your skin and moles to spot changes is key to ensuring early detection of skin cancers. A monthly check of your skin in good lighting conditions is advisable. A photographic record of your moles is very helpful to assess for new and changing lesions.
What is mole mapping?
Mole mapping uses digital imaging technology to map the moles on your body. At OneWelbeck we can offer state of the art mole mapping technology that provides high resolution imaging of moles in order to monitor the entire mole population on your body. This enables accurate tracking of new and changing moles over time with the best possible accuracy. Individual moles of concern can also be monitored using additional dermoscopic imaging which provides a comprehensive, magnified view of a mole that can track changes not visible to the naked eye. Even if you do not have a lot of moles, dermoscopic surveillance can be very helpful if you have individual moles of potential concern where removal is undesirable and not deemed to be necessary by the dermatologist. Your dermatologist can use mole mapping images to efficiently detect concerning moles allowing for early removal. Patients are provided with their own copies of mapping images for their own monitoring purposes to facilitate mole checking in between appointments. It is recommended that mapping is performed every 6 to 12 months.