When To Get Your Moles Checked?

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Find out when, and how, to check your moles for skin cancer even if you’re not going abroad this Summer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK. The good news is that most skin cancers can be cured if they’re detected early. That’s why it’s vital to get your moles checked regularly, and to know how to spot any warning signs.

It’s surprising that, whilst skin cancer is so common, many people don’t consider checking their moles, or may not know what to look out for. With Covid-19 meaning most of us won’t be going abroad for our holidays this year, you may think you’re safe from the risks by staying in Blighty. But even the British sun can cause damage to your skin, so it’s still important to take precautions and avoid spending long periods of time in the sun.

Here we’ll share some insight into why it’s important to check your moles and what to do if you have any concerns.

Most moles are harmless coloured spots on the skin that are no cause for concern. Moles are actually just clusters of melanocytes, the pigment cells that give our skin their colour.

If you spend a lot of time in the sun, or have a family history of skin cancer, these melanocytes (pigment cells) can become damaged and may not grow and develop as normal. They might change colour or shape, over the space of a few weeks or months.

For most people these changes are harmless, but it’s always worth speaking to your GP if you’ve noticed any changes to your moles.

How to check your moles

There are a few very simple principles to look out for when checking your moles. You don’t need any fancy equipment to do your checks, but some people may find it useful to take photos of their moles so they can keep a ‘mole diary’ and easily notice any changes in the pictures over time.

The key changes to look out for are;

  • A change in shape or noticeably uneven surface to the mole
  • The colour - specifically if your mole gets darker or has more than 2 colours
  • Any itching, crusting, flaking or bleeding
  • An increase in size or the appearance of being raised from the skin

Rest assured, even if you do notice any of these changes, that doesn’t mean you definitely have skin cancer!

It’s important to get your moles checked by a healthcare professional so they can put you at ease if there’s nothing to worry about, or do take swift action if they have any concerns.

What happens if my GP thinks my mole is cancerous?

Your GP will discuss what to expect next and will usually refer you to the Dermatology department of your nearest hospital.

If they are certain your mole is cancerous, you may be booked in for a small procedure to remove the mole. This is safe and is quick to perform, you can go home immediately afterwards if you feel well.

You may need to be extra vigilant in checking your moles in the future and get in touch with your GP if you notice any changes to other moles on your body. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so if you’re concerned about any moles, get them checked out!

Remember, skin cancer is totally treatable if it’s detected early on.

How to minimise your risk of skin cancer

The best way to minimise your risk of skin cancer is to avoid spending long periods of time in the sun. Always wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days, as the sun’s UV rays can still reach you through the clouds.

It can be helpful to put on sunscreen as part of your regular morning routine every day; brush teeth, put on sunscreen, get dressed. That way it’ll become a habit and won’t disrupt your day.

Remember to reapply your sunscreen throughout the day, especially if you go in water or engage in any sweaty outdoor sports!

Help, I’m worried about a mole! What now?

Try not to panic if you are concerned about a mole. Most moles are harmless, but it’s always worth seeking advice from your GP.

If you’re worried about visiting your GP’s surgery due to Covid-19, you can book a virtual GP appointment with the Vala team. We provide same-day GP appointments via video or telephone calls. During your appointment, you can chat to a GP about your concerns and show them the mole via a photo or over the video.

The GP will be able to refer you to a Dermatology specialist, or they’ll fast-track your referral to your regular NHS GP.

Don’t ignore your moles - regularly check for any changes and contact your GP if you have any concerns. Oh, and wear sunscreen!

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