A special focus of my work as a dermatologist is the prevention and early detection of skin cancers, especially melanomas that can be fatal. Skin cancer screening, in which I scan your skin all over the body, forms part of your visit. Moles are screened with the use of a dermatoscope. Suspicious lesions will be excised with a narrow margin and sent for histology.
Any moles can be removed if they are cosmetically unacceptable. A shave excision is an acceptable procedure. These lesions are also sent for histology. Moles should not be removed to reduce the chance of developing melanomas, as they more commonly appear in previously normal skin.
Who is at Risk of Skin Cancer?
- Fair skin, light hair, light eye colour who sunburn easily
- Large brown moles at birth
- Unusual moles larger than 7mm, irregular in shape and multi-coloured
- A history of blistering sunburns
- Family history of malignant melanoma
- Personal history of malignant melanoma
The warning signs of malignant melanoma are:
A – Asymmetry
B – Borders irregular
C – Colour multiple
D – Diameter >6mm
E – Evolution
- Size - sudden or continuous enlargement
- Colour - multiple shades of brown, black, mixing red, white and blue
- Shape - irregular border
- Elevation - raising of a part of a pigmented area that used to be flat
- Surrounding skin - redness, swelling or pigment
- Sensation - itchiness, tenderness or pain
- Consistency - softening or hardening
How to examine your skin
Do a self-check every three months
- Look for moles and freckles that are unusual
- Strip off and have a mirror handy
- Check your chest, your abdomen and the front of your arms and legs
- Check the back of your arms and legs
- Twist to see your sides
- Remember to check under the arms, palms and soles
- With a mirror, check your face
- Have someone check your back
- Have a hairdresser check your scalp and behind ears
A malignant melanoma is one of the most dangerous skin tumours and can develop in all age groups. It may originate in or near a mole and can appear anywhere in the body. It is particularly important to discover them as early as possible, as it can spread throughout the body and can be fatal.
In case of any clinical suspicion of a malignant melanoma, this should always be removed surgically with a small safety margin. A wider excision usually follows.