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Many of us have spent the summer months soaking up the sunshine in the garden. When lockdown hit, the sun decided to shine in the UK and we’ve all been outside a lot more than usual ever since.
But the sunshine, as well as being hugely beneficial to our health, can also have negative side effects when we’re not careful – something that Molly-Mae Hague has discovered for herself recently.
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Damage to moles can potentially lead to you needing to have a mole removed, like Molly-Mae, or it can even lead to skin cancer.
Here, consultant dermatologist for sk:n clinics, Dr Jinah Yoo, tells us everything we need to know about caring for and tracking changes in your moles…
What causes moles?
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Moles are caused by melanocytes – the skin cells that produce the colour or pigment of skin – forming in clusters. Most moles develop in early childhood and up until the age of about 30, but some people develop moles later in life.
They are usually completely harmless, however the development of new moles can be linked to sun exposure. And new moles, or changes in existing moles, can in some cases be a sign of skin cancer.
How can you protect your moles?
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Exposing your moles to the sun leaves serious risk of melanoma developing, so ensure you always apply an adequate amount of sunscreen.
Dr Yoo says: “I’d recommend you use at least an SPF30 sunscreen with a UVB and UVA protection star rating of 4 or 5. Sunscreen should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before going outside and reapplied every two hours when you’re outdoors.
“It’s also a good idea to avoid direct sun exposure between 11am and 3pm on sunny days.”
How often should you check moles?
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It’s useful to take photos on your phone or camera, note down the measurement of your moles and compare every three to four months, especially if you have any large or dark moles.
You should also check to see if there are any new moles or if any of your moles have changed in appearance.
If you have many moles all over your body and find it hard to keep track of their size and shape, mole mapping, which is offered in some clinics, is a useful way of ensuring you don’t miss any potentially harmful developments.
It involves having several digital full-body photographs taken, which can later be compared to spot any signs of malignant melanoma, a common form of skin cancer.
How can you tell if your moles have changed?
Look for any changes in colour, shape or size. Warning signs for cancerous changes in existing or new moles or freckles can be easily remembered using the ABCDE rule:
A – Asymmetry
Irregular asymmetric shapes.
B – Borders
Irregular or blurred edges to your moles.
C – Colour
Colour changes – uneven colour with different shades of black, brown or pink.
D – Diameter
Any rapid changes in size. Most melanomas are at least 6mm.
When a mole changes in size, shape or colour, or begins to bleed or scab.
Finally, what mole treatments are available?
If your mole is small you can have it removed with a specialised laser. Laser mole removal treatment uses targeted light energy to break down pigment in the mole.
Moles that protrude from the skin can be shaved away under local anaesthetic. This is usually done using a scalpel and is relatively straightforward and painless. You may see a pink mark on your skin where the mole was but this will fade over time.
Some moles may need to be cut away via an excision. This procedure is performed under local anaesthetic and requires some stitches in the skin. A linear scar will be left, which tends to fade over time.
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