A Guide To Freckles & Moles | sheerluxe.com

A Guide To Freckles & Moles

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For the last 30 years, rates of melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer that develops from moles – have been steadily rising, making it one of the most common cancers among young women in the UK. And with up to 90% of cases of melanoma thought to be preventable, it’s high time we paid attention. But what exactly should you look out for when it comes to checking your moles? And can freckles ever be dangerous? We sat down with Dr Harryono Judodihardjo at Belgravia Dermatology to find out...

Firstly – what’s the difference between a freckle and a mole?

Freckles are lighter, completely flat and often on the face and arms. They characteristically darken in the summer due to UV exposure and fade (or sometimes even disappear) in the winter. Most freckles occur in very fair people with red or blonde hair and often run in families.
 
Moles, on the other hand, occur in all skin types and can be darker and raised. Sometimes they’re present at birth and can have hairs growing through them. Unlike freckles, moles don’t fade throughout the year. Most of our moles are developed by our teenage years, though we can develop new moles as we age. Conversely, freckles often lessen in older age and are replaced by sun spots, which are present all year round.

Can freckles develop into moles with increased sun exposure?

No, freckles don’t develop into moles. However, anyone who has a large number of freckles is likely to be sensitive to the sun and may be more prone to developing abnormal moles, so just because you don’t have many moles doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check yourself regularly.

What’s the relationship between moles and melanoma? 

Melanoma is a potentially serious form of skin cancer that develops when melanocytes (skin cells that produce melanin and thus freckles and moles) grow out of control. The more moles you have, the more at risk you are at developing melanoma, so it’s even more important to keep an eye on things and have them checked from time to time. Be especially cautious if you have more than 100 moles on the body or 11 or more moles on one arm.

And how common is melanoma?

Every year, there are over 15,000 new cases of melanoma in the UK. Fortunately, many melanomas are picked up at an early stage because people are reporting moles they are worried about to their doctors sooner rather than later or attending for regular skin checks if they’re at risk. People most at risk are those with fair skin, blonde or red hair, a history of multiple sunburns and excess sun exposure, and those with lots of moles.

What should you be looking out for when checking moles?

Dermatologists have created the ABCDE of what to look for in a mole that could be a melanoma...
Asymmetry: A normal mole should be symmetrical, one half should be a mirror image of the other half.
Border: The border should be smooth, regular and sharp such that you could draw around it with a fine pen.
Colour: A normal mole should be evenly coloured having only one or two colours. 
Diameter: It should be less than 6mm in diameter.
Evolution: Generally, a normal mole shouldn’t change, whereas a melanoma grows and darkens over a period of a few months. 
 
If a mole fails to meet one or two of these criteria, especially if it’s growing or changing, it’s best to see your doctor to get the mole checked out.

Where can you get your moles checked?

If you are worried about a mole, go and see your GP first. Alternatively, arrange to see a dermatologist who will be able to review the mole of concern and complete a full-body check. At Belgravia Dermatology, we offer a head-to-toe mole check using a dermatoscope – a special type of magnifying glass with polarising light that can examine pigment distribution under the skin and can reveal very subtle changes of a mole, helping to pick up those that are becoming or have become malignant.

How are moles removed?

If, following a mole check, a biopsy indicates the presence of atypical or already cancerous cells, removal will probably be recommended. This usually includes the removal of a small margin of tissue around the mole to ensure no cancerous cells remain. However, there are different techniques according to where the mole is; for example, those on your face are treated very carefully to minimise any scarring.

When’s the best time to get checked?

Don’t wait until you’ve got back from a summer holiday to get your moles tested. If you see an abnormal mole, see your doctor as soon as possible. If you have more than 50-100 moles then it’s best to get your moles checked by a dermatologist at least once a year. 

Visit BelgraviaDermatology.co.uk for more information and to book an appointment. If you have noticed an abnormal mole, you can also book into Boots’ Mole Scanning service, from £35. For more information, visit Boots.com

 


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