Most people have moles. Although it is unlikely that they will change and develop into malignant melanoma, you should still check them regularly, just to be on the safe side. This aggressive form of skin cancer can be cured if it is diagnosed early.
If you have no particular risk factors, every three months or every six months is fine for self-checking your moles. You will need someone to check the moles on your back for you. If you are told you are at higher risk, you should check your own skin monthly.
Professional mole screening
If you come for a consultation with Dr Jonathan Bowling, he first assesses the current position and condition of all the moles that you already have. This allows Dr Bowling to understand how you ‘make‘ your moles. He uses a number of handheld devices to see microscopic information in your moles, which allows him to more accurately predict the potential of risk of change within your moles. This diagnostic technique is called dermoscopy.
If Dr Bowling predicts that you are at an increased risk for moles changing he may advise on more detailed monitoring, called mole mapping.
Mole mapping can be done in one of two ways:
- Using standard photography: digital photographs of the skin on all areas of your body are taken (we recommend an experienced medical photographer) and stored on a USB for future comparison. You can arrange this yourself on an ongoing basis and come back to Dr Bowling if you are worried.
- Digital mole mapping using images from dermoscopy: this is more accurate as it can detect changes in moles before they become apparent to the naked eye. For accurate monitoring, you will need to use the same digital system each time and come back to Dr Bowling for follow-up.
The digital mole mapping method used by Dr Bowling is a much more accurate method of monitoring moles for change. Any moles with changes seen during follow up with digital dermoscopy need careful assessment by a qualified and experienced dermatologist to make a diagnosis.
Diagnostic mole biopsy
If Dr Bowling suspects that a mole may be cancerous, he will arrange for a biopsy of the mole. The mole would be removed under local anaesthetic so it can be examined by an expert in histopathology. He or she will look at the cells under a high-powered microscope to see if they show any cancerous changes.
If the finding is cancer, Dr Bowling will explain the treatment options available and treatment will begin without delay.
Advantages of mole screening by Dr Bowling
You can undertake mole screening yourself at home, or by standard photographic mole mapping with the help of a medical photographer.
However, if you are worried or you have an underlying condition that means you have many moles, you may will need the services of a professional dermatologist.
Dr Bowling is a recognised expert in his field, receiving international referrals for mole screening. He pioneered training in the enhanced diagnostic technique called dermoscopy with over 4000 UK consultant dermatologists, plastic surgeons and GPs attending his courses on dermoscopy. His textbook for skin cancer diagnosis is used by clinicians worldwide. He worked for many years within the NHS and was Lead Clinician for Oxfordshire Skin Cancer MDT and was Chair of the West Thames Valley Specialist Skin Cancer MDT. He now combines private dermatology with medical education, lecturing on skin cancer diagnosis across the UK, Europe and as far as Australia.
“Many cosmetic clinics offer a mole screening or mole mapping service, but they may not have staff with medical qualifications or clinical background necessary to diagnose skin cancer accurately. Our clinics provide complete peace of mind that the latest technology is combined with medical knowledge and experience.”