7 reasons to tell your doctor about a mole

Most moles are harmless, but if your mole begins to change, it's wise to call your GP. Here's what you should look out for.

Hair & Beauty

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and melanoma skin cancer is the most serious form and holds a dangerous high risk of spreading. Caught early it is easily treated but caught late, it can be fatal. It is therefore important we arm ourselves with the knowledge and tools we need in order to keep our skin and our health in tip-top condition. Laura Harker, Lead Screening Nurse at The MOLE Clinic, provides her expertise on seven signs a mole could be one to worry about:

1. You are skin type 1

When it comes to developing skin cancer, there are some people who are at higher risk; people with skin type 1 – individuals who always burn and never tan and often have red hair and freckles – or type 2 – individuals who usually burn and tan minimally, they have fair skin and hair.

However, that’s not to say that if you don’t identify with any of these categories that you don’t need to be vigilant when out in the sun. Whenever our skin changes colour, this is due to the cells in our body changing to try and protect us from harmful UV rays from the sun. So even if you’re not suffering from sun burn, your skin is still showing signs of damage. Even if you have darker skin, you should also be aware that, though your skin might not look affected, damage can still be taking place.

2. It’s been over–exposed to the sun

With an ever-growing desire to look good and healthy, many of us grab the chance to add a golden glow to our skin as soon as the sun peaks through the clouds in a bid to tan. However, most skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet (UV) light damaging the DNA in our skin cells. With the main source of UV light coming from sunlight, taking precautions when outside is essential.

Although damage to the skin from the sun cannot be reversed, you can take steps to prevent yourself from further damage. Seek shade, in particular between the hours of 11am to 3pm and especially avoiding the midday sun, follow common sun safety advice, such as wearing sunscreen with a high SPF and UVA rating and avoid burning at all costs.  

Why? Melanoma skin cancer – the most serious form of skin cancer - although not exclusively, is caused by sunburn. According to Cancer Research UK, in the UK, around 85 out of 100 melanomas (around 85%) are caused by too much ultraviolet radiation1.

3. You have many moles

Some moles are present at birth or appear within the first two years of life, but most develop during childhood and early adult life. The number of moles increases up to the age of 30-40 and after that they tend to decrease. A tendency to have multiple moles runs in some families. Sunburn or excessive sun exposure contribute to new moles formation and people with fair skin are more at risk. Any new moles appearing in adulthood need to be monitored and checked if growing or changing.

4. It stands out

Another warning sign is when a mole looks like an 'ugly duckling' and just looks different, standing out from other moles. A normal mole changes so slowly that change should not be very noticeable, and a normal mole usually looks like those around it.

5. It’s been sun burnt

People with a history of sunburn or sun-bed use, lots of freckles or moles (especially if more than 100 moles), and people with a family history of a first degree relative having melanoma are known to be at higher risk of melanoma skin cancer - the most serious form – so need to be extra vigilant when checking their moles.  

Anyone at all worried about a mole - or a skin sore which is not healing - should speak to a skin specialist without delay as skin cancer must be caught early to be easily treated.

6. The mole is changing

Melanoma can appear initially as an unusual, new or changing mole and early detection saves lives, therefore following the ‘ABCDEFG Rule’ is key:  

A – Asymmetry: Look for moles that are asymmetrical in shape, where one half of the mole is unlike the other.

B – Border: Does the mole have an irregular border? Is it scalloped, jagged or poorly defined?

C – Colour and Comparison: Does the mole have more than one colour and does the mole look different to your other moles?

D – Diameter: Check the diameter of the mole to see if it is bigger than 7mm (about the size of the end of a pencil). However, most skin cancer start off smaller than this and it is important to check for any lesion that is new, changing or unusual, regardless of size.

E – Evolving: Is the mole evolving or changing size shape or colour?

EFG: Is the skin lesion all of elevated, firm to touch and growing in a sustained manner?

If you are able to answer ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, it would be sensible and advised to have the mole checked by your GP or by a skin specialist such as The MOLE Clinic.

7. It’s on your back or your legs

A cancerous mole can appear anywhere on the body but are common on the back for men and the legs for women.

MOLE Clinic® are the UK’s leading skin cancer screening specialists and working with sk:n, they are continuing their mole screening mission, launching their skin cancer screening services in London and across the UK. For more information about The MOLE Clinic and their skin cancer screening services visit www.themoleclinic.co.uk

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