How to check your skin & moles for skin cancer risks
As much as we don’t want to talk about skin cancer, we’ve got to be brave and face the facts.
Skin cancer is the second most common cancer in people aged 15-34 in Britain, with more than a third found in people under the age of 55.
It’s well-known that redheads are at higher risk of skin cancer, including malignant melanoma, even without UV exposure. But you can help yourself; one of the most important ways of keeping an eye on things is to check your moles regularly and report any changes.
Being the slightly rarer of the two main types of skin cancer (the other is called non-melanoma), around 35 people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma every day in the UK, with rates having reportedly quadrupled within 30 years in Britain.
As we know, those with fair skin, red hair, light-coloured eyes, and lots of freckles or moles are at the highest risk. Also, if you have a personal history of sunburn, or of a family member having skin cancer, this will increase your risk, too.
What should I check for?
Get to know your skin. In the shower or as you’re getting ready for the day, make a point of checking your skin and moles every few weeks.
Don’t ignore flat or raised moles, especially those that contain different pigment colouring. Bleeding or sore moles can be an important factor too, so it’s best to get these checked.
Also, keep your eyes peeled for new moles, and any patch of skin that changes size, shape or colour over the course of several weeks.
The ABCD Rule
Thanks to Cancer Research UK, there is an easy-to-remember checklist you can keep in mind when examining your moles. It follows ABCD: Asymmetry, Border, Colour and Diameter. If any of these change, arrange an appointment with your GP.
Asymmetry: Something abnormal and irregular changing in its shape
Border: Blurred or jagged edges of the area
Colour: Pigmentation changing within parts of the area
Diameter: Increased size or change of shape
When should I get checked by my doctor?
Once you’ve noticed a change, visit your local GP. They may ask to see you again in a few weeks’ time, or they might schedule you a dermatology appointment at your local skin clinic.
Here, a dermatological specialist will use a special torch to look closely at the mole, as well as other parts of your skin and moles on the rest of your body.
If an area is considered at risk of being malignant, a biopsy may be taken, which is a scraping of cells to be sent away and tested. Alternatively, a simple procedure may be arranged for the mole to be removed completely, under local anaesthetic.
For delicate ginger flowers, it’s so important to know what’s healthy and normal for you. No one else knows your skin better than you do, and any changes or worries should be checked out by your doctor.
And, as always, wear SPF. Getting sunburned can double your risk of getting skin cancer, so be sensible in the sun!