Skin cancer can be tricky to spot – especially on people with too many moles to count. How does skin cancer expert Dr Anastasia Therianou identify a suspicious patch of skin?
“We’re trained to use a non-invasive tool called a dermatoscope,” Dr Therianou began.
“This tool gives more specific information of the changes we see over time.”
It takes 15 years to train as a consultant dermatologist, and the doctor attested: “We are the most qualified specialists for skin cancers.”
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She continued: “People may worry they are pestering their doctor with any mole changes, as non-cancerous moles can also change in shape and size.”
To help ease any anxiety, Dr Therianou advises to follow the “A-B-C-D-Es”.
A is for asymmetrical
A mole with an irregular shape is abnormal. It should be round or oval, with both sides matching if you were to draw a line through the middle.
B is for border
Does your mole have an irregular, scalloped, blurry or jagged border? Common moles tend to have even borders.
C is for colour
Does your mole have uneven colour or multiple colours? Benign [non-cancerous] moles are a single colour.
But a melanoma [cancerous mole] may have different shades of brown, tan or black. Red, white or blue may also appear in a melanoma.
D is for diameter or dark
Is your mole larger than a pea? If so you will need to get it checked. Equally, any mole that is darker than others could be a sign of melanoma.
E is for evolving
Has your mole changed recently? Familiarise yourself with the appearance of your moles so you can notice changes as they occur.
Don’t forget to look out for the “ugly duckling” – a mole that is distinctly different from the rest of your moles.
Dr Therianou encourages questions, such as: “Is it larger, smaller, lighter or darker than your other moles?”
She added: “Equally, a mole that has no other moles near it could be a warning sign of melanoma.”
The consultant dermatologist had another pointer: “A slow-growing mole in a patient under 40 is likely to be harmless.”
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However, “a growing mole or a new lesion in someone over 40 is more suspicious”.
Dr Therianou’s remark suggests that 40 is the defining age when people need to be even more careful about new or growing moles.
“People older than 40 are unlikely to grow new moles, so any new growths could be suspicious and should be checked.”
But “a rapid change is more suspicious than a gradual change over the years” – regardless of age.
“Eighty-five percent of skin cancer is called basal cell carcinoma (BCC),” Dr Therianou explained.
Although most BCCs appear on parts of the skin that have been exposed to the sun, “skin cancers can arise anywhere on the body”.
“Even on the vulval area or the buttocks,” Dr Therianou continued.
Irregardless of location, “most of the moles suspected to be cancerous are taken out surgically under local anaesthetic,” she concluded.
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