Moles are caused when pigment cells called melanocytes grow in a group rather than being spread out and I have lots. Even as a small child I remember being conscious of my moles and as a teenager I would often (in the privacy of the bathroom), cover my face in heavy foundation just to see how different I would look without them. The older I’ve got the less concerned I am with how they look, they are just part of my genetic makeup, however I’m now more concerned about whether they could be harmful.
Skin cancer is on the rise and affecting people of all ages but especially older people. Over the past 30 years rates of melanoma skin cancer in Britain have risen faster than any other of the top ten cancers. Although skin cancer is very common, the vast majority of cases are not life-threatening provided they are detected early.
There are three main types of skin cancer, which are divided into two groups: melanoma skin cancer (‘black skin cancer’) and non-melanoma skin cancers (‘white skin cancer’). The two main non-melanoma skin cancers are ‘Basal Cell Carcinoma’ (BCC) and ‘Squamous Cell Carcinoma’ (SCC). BCC is the most common and least dangerous type of skin cancer, as it doesn’t have the ability to spread to your inner organs, while melanoma (MM ‘Malignant Melanoma’) is the least common, but the most dangerous type. As with most cancers your risk increases as you age, but now more than a third of all cases of melanoma occur in people under 55 years.
So, why are many of us failing to notice changes in our moles? We forget to stop and take a good look at our bodies. Use a full length and carry out some self-examination, start with your upper body and work down from top to toe once a month.
When coming out of the shower, stand in front of a large mirror and carry out an upper body examination. Start by checking your face, neck, chest and tummy all the way down to your hips.
Examine your arms and elbows, including underarms and both sides of your hands.
Check your lower body, examining the front and backs of your legs and feet. Don’t forget to look between your toes.
Ask a friend or family member to check your back, scalp, ears and other areas you can easily see yourself.
Look out for moles or skin patches which are growing, are bleeding, oozing or crusting, appear inflamed, red around the edges, are itchy, or are changing in any way. All three main types of skin cancer can look different. Some skin cancers might look pigmented like moles, while others may appear red like a patch of eczema or skin coloured like a scar. What you are looking for is change, has the mole started bleeding, has it grown, does it have a scab or refuses to heal or does that scaly patch refuse to go away.
Use the alphabet to make sure your moles are harmless. Here are some of the signs which indicate melanoma.
Do the two halves of the mole differ in shape? Or has the shape changed?
Are the edges of the mole irregular or blurred? Do the outside edges of the mole or area show notches or look ‘ragged’?
Is the colour uneven, patchy or is the lesion showing different shades? You may see different shades of black, brown or pink. ‘C’ also stands for change as mentioned, itchiness, bleeding, oozing or change of colour or shape.
Is the lesion more than 5mm in diameter? Or has it changed size or become raised?
If in doubt, check it out with a qualified skin specialist.
I check my moles regularly but recently realised that it was 5 years since I had them checked professionally. A timely invitation came to meet Dr Stefanie Williams, founder of Eudelo for a skin cancer screening. Dr Stefanie is a fully qualified medical doctor and dermatologist who completed her vigorous training in Germany before settling in the UK. She is often called upon to comment by editors and regularly speaks within the aesthetic industry, Tatler recently named her as ‘one of Britain’s best cosmetic doctors’.
Arriving at Eudelo is like finding an oasis in the middle of London, only minutes from Vauxhall station you step off the street into a beautiful boutique clinic. Initially Dr Stefanie asks about your sunbathing habits, whether you use sunbeds, have you lived abroad or had any previous skin cancer. She then checks each and every mole on your body with a dermatoscope; this is a handheld microscope in which she can see clearly whether the mole or lesion is likely to be cancerous. If you are wondering if this is embarrassing, it isn’t, Dr Stefanie ensures that your modesty is covered at all times. After inspecting all over the body including your scalp, Dr Stefanie then explains that it’s the moment of truth. We are now going to find out how dedicated I have been using a sunscreen. The Visia Complexion Analysis will take a facial scan and show the sun damage to the lower layers of my facial skin, the damage that can’t be seen by the naked eye. The scan will also let me know where I stand compared to my peer group. Visia have a data base of hundreds of men and women of a similar age for the doctors to compare you with.
The results below show that I do have some sun damage, probably gained as a child when we were unaware of the dangers of the sun and also didn’t have the vast array of sun protection products that are now available. I scored 65% (percentile) which apparently isn’t too bad for my age and it clearly shows that using an SPF sunscreen daily has made a huge difference.
Thankfully my moles weren’t cancerous which really does give me peace of mind. The consultation made me realise just how important it is to have your moles checked every year.
If you are worried about your moles, have a professional skin cancer screening carried out by a fully qualified dermatologist, make sure you regularly check your moles yourself and wear an SPF sunscreen every day!
The Skin Health ‘MOT’ at Eudelo includes a medical consultation with a Dermatologist, full body examination for mole check and skin cancer screening, dermoscopy and facial scan for analysis of cumulative sun damage. The cost is £395
Contact Eudelo by vising the website or the clinic at: 63 Bondway, London SW8 1SJ or call 020 7118 9500