So, what should you be looking for?
“If you notice a mole changing in size, shape or colour, it should be checked out straight away. You can use the ABCDE guide to remember the warning signs:
Asymmetry: Both halves of a mole should look the same. Ask yourself: does the left side look like the right side, and does the top half mirror the bottom half?
Border: A mole’s border should be well-defined and sharp, so look out for unclear and irregular edges.
Colour: Keep an eye out for changes in colour, especially black or blue colours, multiple colours or pale areas.
Diameter: Check that your mole is smaller than the end of a pencil. A melanoma is usually more than 6mm in diameter.
Evolving: Get into the habit of checking your skin monthly – is it changing in size, shape or colour?” – Paul
Where should you be looking?
“As well as the obvious places, such as your arms and legs (the legs are the most common place on the body for women to develop melanoma), don’t forget to look in between your toes and fingers, behind the ears and on your genitals. You can also ask your hairdresser to check if you have any moles on your scalp. Always check your nailbeds, too, as a mole can appear on the nailbed as a brown line. To make it easier to check moles on your back, take a photo of your back as a baseline and ask your partner or a friend to check for changes every few months.” – Amelie
If you are worried about one of your moles, what should you do?
“A mole that is standing out from the others (darker, larger and more asymmetric than the others) and one that is changing in appearance over time are two signs that should push you to see a professional. You should go to your GP first – although if they do not have the right equipment, such as a dermatoscope, you have every right to ask for a referral to a dermatologist. If you’re self-funding an appointment, you can go straight to see a dermatologist privately. If your GP recommends you have your mole removed for histological diagnosis (i.e., when a pathologist looks at a removed skin specimen with a microscope to ascertain whether it’s benign, precancerous or malignant), then you can have this done on the NHS or privately. If there is a concern that your mole is cancerous, your GP can refer you to the two-week rule clinic, where you will usually be seen within two weeks. If they deem it necessary, they will remove the mole for you. Sometimes, they will recommend monitoring of the mole rather than excision.” – Amelie
If you want to get a mole removed for aesthetic reasons, what are your options?
“It’s very common for people to want non-cancerous moles removed, either because they’re a nuisance, or because they don’t like the look of them. They can get cut during shaving or get caught on clothing or jewellery. Aesthetic treatments like this are not covered on the NHS, but you can have it done privately. For example, in my clinics, I offer mole shave excision – this method removes moles quickly and simply without the need to cut the skin or have stitches. It is usually carried out under local anaesthetic. Moles on the face and neck respond best to such removal techniques as if a mole is cut out, it can leave a small patch of pale skin.” – Paul