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Skin cancer warning: Expert divulges key decade you need to be most vigilant

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“A key warning sign that a mole (or other skin lesion) might be skin cancer is when a mole is noticeably changing,” Harker stated. “Some moles are present at birth or appear within the first two years of life,” she added. “But most moles develop during childhood and early adult life,” Harker continued. “The number of moles increase up to the age of 30 to 40, and after that they tend to decrease.”

This could be a key decade (from the age of 30) to pay special attention to all of your moles.

But Harker emphasised that “any new moles appearing in adulthood need to be monitored and checked if growing or changing”.

“The ABCDE test is the best way to monitor moles and make a judgement on if you need to seek advice from your GP,” she said.

A for asymmetry

Look for moles that are asymmetrical in shape, where one half of the mole is unlike the other.

B for border irregularity

Does the mole have an irregular border? Is it scalloped, jagged or poorly defined?

C for colour differences and comparison

Does the mole have two or more different colours and does it look different to your other moles?

D for diameter changing

Check the diameter of the mole to see if it is bigger than 7mm (about the size of the end of a pencil).

However, most skin cancers start off smaller than this and it is important to check for any lesion that is new, changing or unusual regardless of size.

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EFG – all of elevated, firm and growing (sustained growth)

Is the mole evolving or changing size shape or colour? Is the mole or skin lesion elevated, firm to touch and growing in a sustained manner?

“Everyone should be aware of the ABCDE test for moles as it is simple to use,” added Harker.

Normal (non-cancerous) moles can change its appearance over time, but the shifts tend to be so gradual that it “should not be very noticeable”.

New moles tend to develop in people with fair skin who have had excessive sun exposure.

Moreover, some people have a greater genetic susceptibility to develop new moles as they age.

However, any mole or mark that bleeds, oozes, or scabs over frequently needs to be checked out by your doctor.

“Another warning sign is when a mole stands out and looks different to other moles,” Harker said. “This is called the ‘ugly duckling’.”

To “provide peace of mind”, Harker recommended that anybody concerned about their moles should get the lesions checked over by their GP – or by a skin specialist, such as herself, at The Mole Clinic.

For those hard to reach places, such as your back, Harder suggests you have a friend or family member to check that area for you.

It will also be helpful to take photographs so that you can track your moles over time.

“Be careful to avoid sunbathing and burning,” cautioned Harker. “Cover yourself up and use sun protection creams of at least SPF 30.”

Harker strongly advises against the use of sun beds, which can significantly increase your risk of skin cancer.

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