How to spot a melanoma

There were 15419 cases of melanoma diagnosed in 2014 in the UK, which represents a 119% increase since 1993.

Regular monitoring of your skin is essential. You need to be more vigilant if,

  1. You have more than 100 moles
  2. You have a family history of melanoma
  3. You have had intermittent intense exposure to the sun
  4. You have type 1 skin (red or blond hair, blue eyes, freckles, burn very easily and never tan)

The ABCDEFG approach to looking at moles is a good screening tool.

A – asymmetry (if you draw a line in the middle, the lesion is not evenly halved)

B – border (the border is not even)

C – colour (the lesion is multicoloured-shades of brown, black, blue, white)

D – diameter (the lesion measures more than 6mm)

E – elevated (the lesion is more raised compared to surrounding skin)

F – firm (the lesion is firmer to touch compared to surrounding skin)

G – growing (the lesion is growing / changing)

There is no reliable way to determine cancer unless examined by a dermatologist who will use a dermatoscope (magnifying glass) to look at the mole in more detail. Your dermatologist may advise to have the lesion removed to be examined under a microscope.

Practical tips

  1. Enlist the help of a friend/family member to look at sites which are difficult to access (back, scalp, back of the legs).
  2. Compare with photos taken in the past to determine whether the mole is old, new or changed.
  3. Take photos of your skin / mole and regularly monitor your skin.
  4. Always use sun screen (SPF 50+ UVB and 5* UVA rating) and re-apply regularly.
  5. Carry sun cream in your bag as you may get caught out by changing weather.
  6. Wear a wide brim hat.
  7. See your GP or a dermatologist as soon as possible if you are worried about a mole.
  8. Avoid staying out in the sun between 1100 and 1500 as the sun is at its highest during that time.

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