mole checks
mole and skin checks
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Mole checks (or skin checks) are a body skin examination performed by a specialist doctor or dermatologist. During the exam, the skin is examined over the entire body to evaluate the health of the skin and of any skin lesions.  You should get a skin check done if you notice that a mole is changing in in shape, size, colour or if it becomes itchy, starts to bleed and becomes painful. 

Dr Targett is a GP specialist in Primary Care Dermatology with a Diploma in Dermoscopy.  She used the latest Dermlite DL4 equipment to perform thorough examination of all skin lesions.  Dr Targett is also qualified, experienced and skilled in skin cancer biopsy and skin cancer surgery, should that be a requirement.

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Dr Rahma Targett

Dr. Rahma Targett

“Trust Your Face to a Doctor Trained in Dermatology and Cosmetic Medicine”

What Are The Different Types Of Skin Cancer?

There are basically three types of skin cancer which are named according to the skin cell type from which they originate.  They are; basal cell carcinoma( from basal cells), squamous cell carcinoma( from squamous cells) and melanoma (from melanocytes).  The most serious and dangerous type of skin cancer is melanoma due to its’ ability to metastasise throughout the body.

What Is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a skin cancer that begins in skin cells known as melanocytes.  It is the melanocytes that give the skin a tanned appearance.  It begins when normal  melanocyte cells become cancerous.  If melanoma is discovered early there is a very good chance that it can be cured.  If not treated early, however, it can metastasise quickly to the lungs, liver, bones and brain.  It spreads by “seeding” through the body’s blood vessels.

What Causes Melanoma?

Melanom is caused by melanocyte cells that begin to develop abnormally. Exposure to UV radiation causes changes in the cells DNA which causes them to develop abnormally.  UV exposure from the sun is the most common cause of melanoma.  Sun bed exposure is another source of UV radiation which may also cause melanoma to occur.  Sudden intense exposure to UV radiation which results in sunburn is thought to be the major cause of melanoma formation.

What Are The Risk Factors For Melanoma?

Melanomas form by having to much exposure to ultraviolet light (sunlight).  The greatest risk factor for developing a melanoma is too much exposure to the sun.  The more time you spend in the sun the greater your risk of developing skin cancer.  Cancers often take a very long time to develop.  If possible it is best to reduce exposure to the sun for young children.

Other risk factors include;

  • Severe sunburns, especially when young.
  • Many moles on the body.
  • Presence of atypical dysplastic moles.
  • If you have had melanoma before or other types of skin cancer.
  • If you have fair skin and red or blond hair.
  • If you have a family history of melanoma.

Where Do People Usually Get Melanoma?

Melanomas can quite literally form on the skin in any part of the body.

It is interesting that distribution of melanoma is different for men and women.

For men, melanomas usually form on the truck between the shoulders and the hips.  They also commonly get melanomas on the head and neck.

Women on the other hand mostly get melanomas on their legs.

Melanomas typically occur on areas of the body that get a lot of sun exposure.  Perhaps the difference between men and women can be explained by this fact.

Sometimes, however, melanomas can occur in areas of the body that rarely get exposed to the sun.  Areas such as the mouth, sinuses, soles of the feet.  Melanomas may also grow under the nail beds of toes and fingers. Melanomas have also been known to form in the genital region, the eyes and in other organs.

Can I Prevent Melanoma?

There is no known way to prevent melanoma with certainty.  The best way to avoid getting a melanoma is to avoid the sun as much as possible.  When venturing outdoors it is always a good idea to follow these tips;

  1. Use a broad spectrum SPF, 30 or higher.
  2. Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside and reapply once every two hours.
  3. Seek shade between 10am and 4pm, this is when the sun is most intense.
  4. Wear sunglasses that have UV protection.
  5. When going out in the sun wear a wide brimmed hat, long sleeves and long pants.  Tightly woven cloth provides the best protection.

What Are Atypical Moles or Dysplastic Nevi?

When a mole doesn’t appear the same as a typical mole it is often referred to as an atypical mole. These moles have a greater likelihood of developing into melanoma.  When pathology is performed on these moles they are often called dysplastic nevi.  Meaning the cells in the moles are abnormal but have not yet developed into a cancer. People may have a few of these types of moles or may have several.  Both you and your skin care specialist should keep a close eye on these types of moles.

Why Is Self Examination Of Moles So Important ?

Self examination is so important because it leads to early detection of skin cancer.  The Skin Cancer Foundation highly recommends self examination of your skin from head head to toe on a monthly basis.  This results in any cancerous or pre cancerous lesions being detected early.  Most skin cancers can be treated successfully if found in the early stages.  Without treatment skin cancer can be very deadly. It very important to get to know your skin.  This way you will know what looks normal and know when things start to change.  Being proactive can save your life.  Don’t rely on an annual skin checks / mole checks from your doctor as the only means of detecting skin cancer.

How To Perform Skin Checks / Mole Checks At Home?

If you are in a high risk category for getting skin cancer, then self examination is very important.  You should become familiar with the landscape of you skin, including freckles, moles, blemishes and other skin lesions.  Should you notice any new moles or changes to your existing moles, you should have then checked by your skin care specialist as soon as possible.

The best time to perform a skin self examination (mole checks / skin checks) is after you have had a bath or shower.  The exam should be performed the same way every time you do it.  Look for any changes as you proceed.  Using this technique you will not miss any part of your body.  For hard to see areas like your back or scalp, ask someone to help examine these areas.

Make sure the room is brightly lit and use a full length mirror as well as a hand held  mirror.  This will help you see all over your body.

Routine for Mole Checks / Skin Checks;

  1. Check the front and back of your body using the mirror.
  2. Raise each arm and look at the side of your body
  3. Women should check underneath their breasts.
  4. Look at the front and back of your legs
  5. Look between the buttocks and also the genital area.
  6. Check the back and front of your hands and forearms. (don’t forget between the fingers and under the fingernails)
  7. Examine your feet in the same manner as your hands.
  8. Examine your face, neck and scalp.  (Usually easier with dry hair)

How Often Should I Get Mole Checks / Skin Checks  From My Doctor?

Skin examination by your specialist doctor are important for everyone and should be performed once a year.  Speak to your skin care doctor about how often you need to have mole checks / skin checks.  You may need to have skin checks / mole checks more often if you are in a high risk category for developing skin cancer.  You will have an increased risk if you have a family history of skin cancer, if you have had skin cancer before or have a weak immune system.

What Should I look For When Examining My Moles?

Moles are mostly harmless, but it is possible for them to develop into a type of skin cancer known as malignant melanoma.

By learning the ABCDE of mole checks / skin checks, you can keep a close eye on your moles to see if there is any cause for concern. Rapid changes in the appearance and size of moles is a definite red flag.

When Should I See a Healthcare Professional To Have Mole Checks and Skin Checks?

Watch for any changes in any moles or skin marks on your body. And pay attention to new moles or skin marks that appear. If any of them fit the ABCDE’s or other signs of skin cancer, see your healthcare provider for mole checks /skin checks right away.

A – Asymmetry

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Moles are usually round in shape due to the fact that they grow evenly in all directions.  One side should be a mirror image of the the other side. The image shown above shows a melanoma that has grown at an uneven rate and as such is asymmetrical in shape.

B – Border

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A normal, healthy mole usually has a smooth and clearly defined border. Melanomas on the other hand have blurred borders and ragged edges.  This image shows a melanoma with blurred borders and ragged edges.

C – Colour

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A healthy mole normally has a uniform colour.  Melanomas on the other hand are often uneven in colour.  The image above depicts a mole with two to three shades of black or brown.  Melanomas may also be varying shades of red or pink.  Moles that are changing colour or darkening may be an indication of melanoma.

D – Diameter

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Melanomas are often larger than 6mm wide.  It is common for melanomas to continue to grow larger.  This is however only a sign of melanoma…..moles smaller than 6mm can be cancerous and a healthy mole may be larger than 6mm.

E – Enlargement

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Over time a melanoma will often get bigger.  It may also become raised above the skin’s surface.  Keep a look out for swelling and inflammation and see your skin care specialist if this is noticed.  The mole may often remain the same size but the area surrounding it or underneath it may swell and enlarge.  Any new symptoms such as itching, bleeding or crusting may be a sign of melanoma and mole checks / skin checks are essential.

Are Raised Moles Dangerous?

Common moles can be raised or flat.  Common moles rarely turn into melanoma. Common moles are not cancerous, but people that have 50 or more common moles have a greater chance of developing melanoma. Check your moles once a month using the ACBCDE of mole examination. Sudden increases in mole size and height need further investigation from your doctor.

Can Melanoma Kill You?

Early detection is the imperative, this is why we strongly recommend self examination of moles every month.   If a melanoma is recognised and treated at an early stage it is nearly always curable. If however it is not detected early, there is the possibility that it may spread to other parts of the body.  It then becomes hard to treat and may become fatal.  Melanoma may not be the most common type of skin cancer but it is certainly the most fatal.

Can A Bleeding Mole Be Harmless?

A bleeding mole may be harmless but it can also be serious! A mole that bleeds is a sign that the mole may be a melanoma.  Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer that may spread throughout the body if left untreated.

Can A Mole Disappear?

Over time moles can change and evolve.  In some instances it has been know for moles to fall off altogether.  This is usually a gradual process. The evolution of a disappearing mole is that it starts as a flat spot which gradually becomes a raised spot.  It then turns light and pale in colour before disappearing.

This process, however, rarely indicates a cancer.  However, if a mole does disappear very quickly it may indicate a melanoma or other type of cancer.  Please visit your doctor or dermatologist to have mole checks if this occurs to you.

Can Cancerous Moles Disappear?

When a cancer begins to grow in the body, the body’s immune system responds by attacking the cancer.  A cancerous mole can be reduced in size by the immune systems response to it.  It has even ben known for some moles to disappear altogether.  The reduction in size of melanomas is called regression and is known to occur in approximately 10 – 20 Percent of melanomas.  fix

It is possible for this regression to completely cure the cancer.  Often, however the cancer metastasises to other parts of the body, resulting in a poor prognosis.

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