Here in New Zealand we are constantly being reminded about the dangers of skin cancer and the importance of getting your moles checked. New Zealand and Australia have the highest rates of melanoma in the world.
As sailors who spend a lot of time outside and in the sun, we are particularly vulnerable, I booked myself an appointment with a dermatologist and went along to get checked out.
There are a few options available for having a mole check. Firstly the cheapest and easiest option is getting your GP to have a look at any moles you are worried about.
Secondly you can go along to a clinic called ‘Mole Map’. This is quite expensive, and involves a technician taking photos of your moles and anything suspicious is then sent to a dermatologist to have a look at. This costs from NZD$130.00 for just a couple of moles up to NZD$379.00 for a full body go-over.
I opted to go to a dermatologist to speak directly with the expert about all things moley. This cost about NZD$220.00 for a standard consultation and NZD$420.00 if you have a ‘procedure’.
I am lucky enough to have been blessed with olive skin. I go quite brown, but will still burn in the harsh New Zealand sun, where you can literally feel your skin sizzling if you don’t cover up. I have only got a few moles, and the dermatologist declared me low risk, mainly because of my skin tone, and because I don’t have many moles, and no suspicious looking ones.
The Dermatologist explained that you have a higher risk of getting skin cancer if:
- Any family history of skin cancer
- You have fair skin
- You have got lots of moles
- If you got burnt a lot as a child
- You have ever used sun-beds
Early detection is the key to successful treatment. With my full check over now, I have got a good baseline to start with as I have a better idea of what our ok moles look like.
So how about you team up with your partner or a friend and have a mole check session!
To identify dodgy moles, follow the ABCDE of Melanoma:
Asymmetry: two halves of the mole are different from one another
Border: the edges of the mole are poorly defined. It is ragged, notched, blurred or an irregular shape
Colour: the colour is uneven with shades of black, brown and tan. Melanomas may also be white, grey, red, pink or blue
Different: from other lesions (ugly duckling) there is a change, particularly an increase, in size. Melanomas are usually bigger than the end of a pencil (6mm)
Other things to think about:
- Melanomas can appear as a new spot or an existing spot, freckle or mole that has changed in colour, shape or size.
- Sometimes melanomas may bleed or be itchy, and they may become raised quickly and catch on clothing.
- While many melanoma are multi-coloured, they can also be white or the same colour as your skin.
- Some types of melanoma develop over a period of weeks or months, while others tend to develop more slowly.
- Nodular melanomas are a type that grow rapidly and need to be removed urgently. They are most often found on the head and neck and in older people, particularly men. They are raised, firm and often uniform in colour.
- A melanoma that shows multi-colouring.
Here is a handy picture showing good moles on the left vs bad moles on the right.
If you have got any unusual looking moles like the ones above – please get them checked!
Of course with all things like this – prevention is best so make sure you cover up in the sun, wear hats and sun glasses, and of course sunscreen. Getting burnt is bad!
There has been some recent research suggesting that some sunscreens can be harmful to coral, so if you are doing lots of snorkelling and swimming around coral there is some special sunscreen you can get that is supposed to be better for coral than normal sunscreen. Or alternatively cover up with UV protective rash shirts instead.
Have you had a mole check lately?