what “Fine moles come in two forms,” explains Dr Emma Creighton, consultant dermatologist at Onewellbeck. “Junctional nevi are usually flat on the surface of the skin, with a fine, smooth border. Intradermal nevi protrude from the skin and are usually smooth and domed in shape.
where Moles are often found on areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun, but can appear anywhere on the body.
Should I be worried? Most moles are completely harmless, but melanoma is a form of skin cancer that develops as a new mole or within an existing one, and accounts for 2,300 deaths a year in the UK. “There is no national screening program for melanoma in the UK, so it’s a good idea to check your body for moles every month using a full-length mirror and good lighting,” says Mahto. “The most common site of melanoma for men is the back, and for women it’s the legs. But be sure to scan your body top-to-toe regardless.
How should I scan my skin? “There’s an easy reminder for this,” says Dr Cara Heelan, consultant dermatologist at the Royal Marsden and Lister Hospital in London. “Think ‘ABCDE,’ so you’re looking for moles that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, contain multiple colors, are 6mm or more in diameter, are expanding, or are changing in size, shape or color.” Don’t forget easy-to-miss spots like your palms, feet, scalp, behind your ears, and your genital area; The skin under your nails is also often overlooked. “Itching can mean you have dry skin over your mole,” she explains. “But if it doesn’t resolve within two or three weeks, that’s something you need to look into.”
For those at high risk of melanoma (for example, people with certain genetic mutations, or people with very fair skin, for example), some NHS trusts offer a service called mole mapping, explains Heelan. “Basically it involves repeated examination and photography of the body so that they can be compared over time and changes identified. If you do not fall into this bracket, you will need to see a private dermatologist to access the service. Mahto says some people find that taking their own photos of their skin is a useful tool for keeping track of changes.
“If you notice something that’s worrying you, the first thing you should do is make an appointment to see your GP,” says Heelan. “If they’re concerned there’s a risk of melanoma, they’ll refer you to a dermatology department immediately, usually within two weeks.”
The specialist will examine your skin using a dermatoscope – a specialist magnifying glass. If their findings seem suspicious, your mole will be removed for histological examination by a pathologist. “Local anesthetic will be added, and a scalpel will be used to remove a border to remove the mole, so the scar ends up three times the size of the original lesion,” she explains. The procedure takes about 20-30 minutes and stitches are usually used to close the wound. If melanoma is found on biopsy, catching it early means all treatment is surgical removal.
How can I remove them? The NHS will remove a mole if there is reason to suspect it may be cancerous, or sometimes if it is so infected, bleeding or irritating that it affects your quality of life: “If the mole is being removed because it is a nuisance rather than because it is suspected to be cancerous, they are sometimes removed by shave excision.” This is more likely to happen if you have an intradermal nevus – a raised, dome-shaped mole. “They’re shaved more superficially, under local anesthesia, using cautery instead of stitches,” Heelan says. You will be left with a scar roughly the same size as the base of your mole.
If you want to remove the mole for cosmetic reasons, you’ll need to see a private dermatologist and spend anywhere from £200 to £700, says Creighton.