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Summer in Britain: when should I be worried about a mole on my skin?

(Not the Wind in the Willows kind!)

Moles during the summer

Summer in Britain: when should I be worried about a mole on my skin?

Posted on Wed Jun 17, 2020

We spoke to Consultant Dermatologist Dr Tee Wei Siah to find out what you should do if you’re out in the sun when you have one or more moles somewhere on your skin.

Most of us have a few moles on our bodies, (no, not the animal, the skin growth!), and for the most part they’re completely harmless. However, some moles are more dangerous than others, presenting the risk of cancer when exposed to the sun.

It’s a good idea to check any moles on your body before heading out for an extended sunbathing session (even in the UK!), so we wanted to explain how to do this, and how to assess and minimise the risk, so you can enjoy the ‘Great British Summertime’.

To do this, we teamed up with Dr Siah, Consultant Dermatologist.

How do I check whether a mole is potentially dangerous?

I’ll be as clear as possible, but I’ll preface this by saying that if you do have a mole that you’re worried about, it’s worth consulting a specialist, even if it’s just for peace of mind!

When checking a mole, look for:

  • Asymmetry – the two halves of the area may differ in shape.
  • Border – the edges of the area may be irregular or blurred, and sometimes show notches.
  • Colour – this may be uneven. Different shades of black, brown and pink may be seen.
  • Diameter – most melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter. Report any change in size, shape or diameter to your doctor.

The British Association of Dermatologists has created an ABCD-Easy guide to help identify changes that might indicate a ‘melanoma.’

Again, if you do have any doubts, you should contact an expert.

Should I limit time in the sun if I have any moles?

We should all take extra care in the sun. Excessive UV radiation can damage the DNA in our skin cells and cause skin cancers.

 

Sunbathing
This is still possible, just be careful!

What suncream should I use?

As a dermatologist, I recommend a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above as a satisfactory form of sun protection in addition to protective shade and clothing.

What are my options for treating moles?

[Warning: this might be a little unpleasant reading!]

A mole may be removed via shave excision or excision biopsy.

Shave excision: After local anaesthetic has been injected, a small blade is used to cut around and under the mole to leave a flat wound. No sutures (stitches) are needed.

Excisional biopsy: The whole lesion plus a narrow margin of healthy skin is removed using a punch device or a scalpel. Sutures are required.

What other skin ailments can be affected by the sun?

Common summertime skin problems include sunburn, photosensitive rashes and prickly heat.

Sun exposure can worsen already existing conditions such as rosacea.

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