Skin Cancer, Skin Checks
Above: for a thorough skin check it is best to see a specialist.
We’ve created a simple guideline below as to how often you should self-check your skin – and how often to book an expert skin check. It’s a good way to stay reassured that any suspicious moles or spots are detected early – when they’re most treatable.
1. Know your skin cancer risk factor.
Everyone’s skin is different – and your risk of getting skin cancer such as melanoma depends on several factors: your skin type, your age, your lifestyle, family and personal history of skin cancer, and how often you’re been sunburned.
So the first step is to check your personal risk level – the results will give you an indication of how often you should have your skin and moles checked.
As a general guideline, we recommend:
2. Self skin check – at least every 3 months
Learn how to check your skin regularly and get to know your skin well. It’s a good idea to do a self-check every three months (at the beginning of each season is an easy way to remember) – or more often if you’re high risk. Use a small mirror to check all areas, freckles and moles – and if possible, ask someone to check the areas you can’t see, such as your neck, scalp and back.
Above: as well as seeing a specialist, do your own skin cancer check as part of your annual or six-monthly wellness check.
If you notice any changes or you’re concerned about a changing mole or spot, give us a call and describe your symptoms on 0800 665 362 or book a thorough skin and mole check. It may not be anything of concern, but it’s always best to get it checked out by experts.
3. GP skin check – every 6 months
Many people ask their doctor to check their skin regularly – and this is definitely a great idea! However, just remember that GPs usually do a brief visual skin check within the confines of a 15-minute appointment. And because melanoma is very difficult to detect visually, even the most experienced GP can miss a suspicious mole that’s changing or growing.
So while it’s recommended that you get your skin checked by your doctor as part of your annual or six-monthly wellness check, it shouldn’t take the place of a full body skin check with skin cancer detection experts, every year.
MoleMap skin check – every year
There’s a good reason we recommend having a MoleMap every year. That’s because around half of melanomas are new and don’t come from an existing mole1 - however, the earlier we detect something new or changing, the better the outcome.
So we always advise annual visits to Molemap, or sometimes more often if you’re high risk. Once we have your skin mapped and on file, we know what was already there and what was not.
A Full Body MoleMap takes around an hour, so you can be reassured we check and map your skin from head to toe, so we can compare any changes in your skin or moles at your next appointment.
Alternatively, a MoleMap Skin Check is a good option for those who are lower risk – it includes a thorough examination and imaging of all moles of concern (note that it doesn’t include skin-mapping over time).
Above: MoleMap skin cancer check includes a thorough examination and imaging of all moles of concern.
What’s the best time of year to check your skin?
There’s no hard and fast rule for this. Many of our patients like to have skin checks during summer months – or at the end of summer - to ensure you don’t have any growing or changing moles after being exposed to the summer sun. Others choose to have their skin and moles checked every autumn or winter as you’re less likely to spot any changes yourself when your skin is always covered up.
The main thing is to ensure you’re having your skin checked by experts every year – think of it as an annual warrant of fitness for your skin!
Checking your skin and moles - what to look for
The most important warning signs of skin cancer such as melanoma are any new spots or moles, or ones that change. If a mole grows, changes shape or colour, or if new and different colours appear, you should certainly have it checked professionally.
It’s a good idea to get to know the ABCDE and EFG rules when you’re self-checking your skin and moles – check them out here.
MoleMap Melanographers are highly trained in detecting the signs of early melanoma, so if you’re concerned, give us a call us on 0800 665 362.
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