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Skin cancer awareness: a lesson in mole management

August 1st 2013 / Anna Hunter

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Don't get us wrong, we love the sun - but we love our health more. Anna Hunter explains why you need to be managing your moles this summer, and how to check for the early signs of melanoma

With heatwave and high UV alerts again issued by the Met office today, we’re in the midst of another scorcher. Normally unfamiliar territory for us rain-lashed Brits, such tropical temperatures prompt us to consider first world factors we never usually need take heed of - such as the suitability of flip flops in the office or the noisiness of our bedside fan overnight. But when you’re weighing up the pros and cons of a Fab vs. a 99, take a minute to think about the little guys - your moles.

Ordinarily they mind their own business, hiding on a shin or contentedly resting on a collarbone, however it’s in the summer months especially that we need to be sensitive to their presence, sudden appearance or change in behaviour. We’ve all heard horror stories of apparently innocent seeming moles changing in character, and thus sadly all too often changing lives. If you stay aware and take precautions however, it’s likely that you’ll have no problems, or that in the unfortunate event that you do notice alterations you’ll catch them before they become a danger.

MORE GLOSS: The mobile app that maps out your moles for skin safety

We all know that overexposure to UV light can up our chances of developing melanoma, so to minimise the risk we should apply high-factor sunscreen religiously, stay in the shade when the sun is strongest between 11am and 3pm and cover up where possible. Don’t even mention sunbeds.

On the whole we tend to be better at applying these rules when we go abroad as opposed to when we’re on home soil, as who could believe that damp little England could compete in a summer-off with the Costa del Sol? Even if you’re not feeling it on the Celsius scale however, Blighty weather in fact leaves you wide-open to skin cancer if you don’t protect yourself.

MORE GLOSS: The dangers of tanning

While most moles are benign, it’s especially important to keep an eye on them at this time of year whilst also avoiding sunburn at all costs. Prevention is always better than cure, so take a look at our sunscreen picks to find a skin saver that suits you best. As for the mole patrol, the NHS recommends checking them as often as possible and staying vigilant for:

  • Moles with uneven colouring - most moles only have one or two colours, but melanomas have lots of different shades.
  • Moles with an uneven or ragged edge - moles are usually circular or oval with a smooth border.
  • Bleeding, itching, red, inflamed, swollen or crusty moles.
  • Moles that get a lot bigger - most moles are no bigger than the width of a pencil.

The NHS also recommends using the ABCDE method when on a mole hunt:

  • A: asymmetry
  • B: border irregularity
  • C: colour change
  • D: diameter
  • E: elevated

If you notice any changes or find something that causes you concern, then visit your GP or take a trip to The MOLE Clinic for a quick yet thorough and advanced screening. Most likely it will put your mind at rest, and it’s also comforting to know that most of the melanomas that they detect are caught early and are thus easily treatable. Master mole management and chances are you will never have anything to worry about.

For more information see www.nhs.uk, and for more information and to book an appointment at The MOLE clinic see www.themoleclinic.co.uk



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