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A Definitive Guide To Checking Your Moles

It's no doubt that skincare is having a moment right now, but with temperatures getting higher and Irish skin cancer rates rising with it – have you begun checking your body for changing unusualities?

For the purpose of clarity, moles are small, coloured spots on the skin.

Most people have them and they're usually nothing to worry about unless they change size, shape or colour.

According to the HSE, everyone is susceptible to getting skin cancer, which could either be melanoma or non-melanoma. While melanomas can be fatal, both forms are completely treatable if you catch them early by checking regularly and take preventative action.

To ensure total safety, one should check their skin every three to four months. 

The most thorough way to do that is to get whole-body photography once a year from the age of 18 and checking these shots against each other to see if there are any new moles or changes. 

This could mean asymmetry, an irregular border or colour, a change in size or just growing in general.

It is completely normal to get new moles, but our moles are individual to our selves, and should all look similar. If you find one that does not conform to that, it could be melanoma – and that’s when you need to see your GP or a skin specialist.

For prevention, common sense is key: avoid the midday sun, never use tanning beds, wear sunglasses, cover up and use at least a factor-30 suncream with both UVA and UVB protection. 

It's normal for:

  • babies to be born with moles
  • new moles to appear – especially in children and teenagers
  • moles to fade or disappear as you get older
  • moles to get slightly darker during pregnancy

However, it is important to get a new or existing mole checked out if it:

  • changes shape or looks uneven
  • changes colour gets darker or has more than two colours
  • starts itching, crusting, flaking or bleeding
  • gets larger or more raised from the skin

Non-melanoma skin cancer is pink and doesn’t look like a mole – it’s a non-healing lesion. Lots of people miss these since they only appear on sun-exposed areas. If they appear and don’t go away within a month or so, you should get them checked, too.

Ireland was recently ranked 14th in a global table of skin cancer susceptibility, recording, on average, 859 melanoma-related diseases per year. 

A number of these diseases could have been avoided with the right plan put in place. For more information, check out the HSE's website.

Main image by @cindycrawford