Why should you check moles regularly?
It’s important to check your skin and moles regularly. New moles or marks on your skin, or changes to an existing mole could be a sign of a type of skin cancer called melanoma. Melanoma is the fifth most common type of cancer in the UK. The good news is, the earlier it’s spotted and treated, the better the outlook is.
Am I at risk of skin cancer?
Most people know that getting sunburn increases the chances of getting skin cancer. But studies suggest you are more at risk of skin cancer if you:
- have fair skin that burns easily, particularly if you also have fair hair and lots of freckles
- expose your skin to the sun, either over long periods or for short intense periods like while on holiday
- use sunbeds
- have lots of moles – having more than 100 moles on your body increases your risk of skin cancer
- have large moles (most melanomas are at least 6mm wide)
- have people in your family who have had skin cancer
- are taking medicines that affect your immune system
How do I check my moles?
It’s a good idea to check your skin once a month. The better you get to know your skin, the more likely you are to see any changes.
- Stand in a well-lit room.
- Use a full-length mirror and a hand mirror to check your body all over.
- Make sure you check hard to see places such as your back, buttocks and scalp.
If you have a partner, they can check moles in these places for you as well.
- Check the less obvious places too, like your underarms, in between your fingers and the soles of your feet.
- Track the size and shape of your moles by taking photographs of them next to a ruler.
- Mark on the photographs which area of your body each picture is from to help you track any changes over time.
What should I look for when checking my moles?
You’re looking for new moles, or changes in the size, colour or shape of an existing mole. There’s a useful way of remembering what to look for called the ‘ABCDE’ rule. It stands for:
- A – Asymmetry. Do both halves of the mole look the same?
- B – Border. Is the edge of the mole uneven or blurred?
- C – Colour. Is the mole a mix of different shades or colours?
- D – Diameter. Is it bigger than 6mm from side to side?
- E – Evolution. Has the mole changed or grown?
There are a few other important things to look out for like itching, bleeding or crusting. If a mole starts to bleed and you haven’t injured it then you should get it checked by your doctor as soon as you can.