Mole Patrol – Sun Protection

Most moles are harmless… but some are not.

Most of the moles and freckles we find on our skin are harmless.

But sometimes moles can change into a potentially fatal form of skin cancer called melanoma. Melanoma can even develop on unblemished skin.

If a melanoma is detected early, it can easily be treated. So it is important to notice any changes on your skin as soon as they occur and show them to your doctor, before things become too serious.

This section of our web site show you the danger signs and what to do about it.

Information in this section supplied by The Melanoma & Skin Cancer Research Institute.

Do A Mole Patrol Now – It’s Six Easy Steps

  • Do a Mole Patrol every three months, starting now. Remember, you are looking for moles or freckles that are unusual in some way.
  • Strip off and have a mirror handy.
  • Check your chest, your abdomen and the front of your arms and legs.
  • Now check the back of your arms and legs.
  • Twist to see your sides.
  • With the mirror, carefully check your face, your ears and your back.
  • Have a relative or friend check your back. If this is not possible you can examine your back yourself with a hand held mirror, while standing in front of a wall mirror.
  • If you find anything suspicious, show it to your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Remember – not one of the many thousands of people currently suffering from melanoma ever thought it would happen to them.
  • Information in this section supplied by The Melanoma & Skin Cancer Research Institute.

Harmless Moles

Are mostly small (less than 5mm in diameter) with well defined edges. They may be flat or raised and are usually evenly coloured with no more than one or two shades of brown as in photos 1 & 2.

They may be ‘dysplastic”, that is, larger with ill defined edges and somewhat irregular colouring on the surface as in photo 3.

Moles and freckles that may be a problem are those that change colour, shape, or size, become itchy, bleed or develop a lump so, when trying to decide if a skin blemish could be a melanoma, look for any mole or freckle that:

Has changed COLOUR

Melanomas often develop a blue or black colour. Sometimes areas may become lighter and many different colours such as reds, grey and blues may be found.

Has changed SHAPE or increased in SIZE

The change in shape is usually from an oval or round mole to an irregular “coastline” shape is in photo 5. The increase in size can be overall or simply an elevation above surrounding skin. It is important to react quickly if a flat mole becomes elevated. (photo 6) particularly if the elevation is dark or different colour from the original mole.

Has an IRREGULAR BORDER

Most harmless moles have smooth, regular borders. Melanomas often have irregular borders.

Is ITCHY or BLEEDS

A mole that bleeds without any significant injury should be examined by your doctor. Itch may be an important symptom but only if there are other changes noticeable in the mole – many skin conditions which are not serious are also itchy.

Has APPEARED RECENTLY

If a mole suddenly appears from normal looking skin. especially if it has any dark colours or is growing rapidly.

Checking Your Skin

Most skin cancers are detected by people themselves or by a family member. If found early, most skin cancers can be successfully treated. Make sure you check your entire body as skin cancers can occur on parts of the body not exposed to the sun. Ask a friend or family member to check areas you cannot see, such as your scalp and back. See your doctor immediately if you see anything unusual or notice any changes to your skin.

Skin Cancers

Melanoma

  • Most deadly form of skin cancer.
  • If left untreated can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Appears as a new spot or an existing spot that changes in colour, size or shape.
  • Can appear on skin not normally exposed to the sun.

Common features of melanoma include:

  • One half of the spot does not match the other.
  • Edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.
  • Colour is not the same all over.
  • Larger than 6mm across (about ¼ inch) or is growing larger.

Nodular melanoma

  • Grows quickly.
  • Looks different from common melanomas. Raised and even in colour.
  • Many are red or pink and some are brown or black.
  • They are firm to touch and dome-shaped.
  • After a while they begin to bleed and crust. Basal cell carcinoma.
  • Most common, least dangerous form of skin cancer.
  • Red, pale or pearly in colour, appears as a lump or dry, scaly area.
  • May ulcerate or fail to completely heal.
  • Grows slowly, usually on areas that are often exposed to the sun. Squamous cell carcinoma.
  • A thickened, red scaly spot that may bleed easily, crust or ulcerate.
  • Grows over some months, usually on areas often exposed to the sun.
  • More likely to occur in people over 50 years of age.

Information in this section supplied by The Melanoma & Skin Cancer Research Institute.

Melanoma is a curable form of skin cancer which usually develops from a mole or even a freckle. However, it can appear from unblemished skin

If not treated early and appropriately melanoma can spread to lymph nodes and sometimes into the bloodstream where it acts like any other cancer and can be fatal.

Melanoma risk is related to sunlight damage of the skin and the number of moles you have.

People with sun sensitive skin, who burn and freckle easily, or who have lots of moles, are at greater risk of developing all forms of skin cancer, including melanoma.

They must therefore be even more careful to check their skin regularly.

Most sunlight damage to skin occurs during childhood and adolescence. This is therefore the time when special care is needed to prevent over exposure

If you find anything suspicious, show it to your doctor as soon as possible.

Remember – not one of the many thousands of people currently suffering from melanoma ever thought it would happen to them.

For most people there are no long term problems. A simple local removal by surgical excision will cure 8 in 10 people.

Sometimes a skin graft is needed and occasional lymph nodes may have to be removed – but this is only for more advanced melanomas.

Early detection and treatment mean minor surgery and an excellent chance of total cure.