OK, OK, summer in the UK may not be as sun drenched as some countries but we bet you’ll still be lining rooftops, gin in hand or picnic-ing in the park with strawberries a’plenty until the sun goes down. Yet, as we’ve learnt by now, sometimes the best things in life come with a twist and there are risks involved with the sun, most notably concerning moles – whether you have them or not.

Thus, as summer is now well and truly upon us, and an apparent heatwave is set to sweep Britain – hurrah – we caught up with Doctor Jonny Christopher who has many years of experience with moles and the dangers surrounding them. And trust us, this isn’t an ad but a real shout out for people to beware in the glare of the sun!

Dr Jonny talked us through all we need to know, including mole mapping and the revolutionary machine making waves in the health industry. After one of The Handbook team went to get one of their moles removed and it badly scarred she discovered the body mapping machine that uses FotoFinder state-of-the-art technology to change the way we analyse moles. With its high success rate, we delved deeper into why moles really should be talked about…

Dr Jonny, what is a mole and why do we get them?  

They are essentially pockets of hyper pigmentation. Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. When you don’t protect your skin, UV rays from sunlight or tanning beds can damage your skin’s DNA. When the DNA is altered, it can’t properly control skin cell growth, leading to cancer.

How often should we check our moles and what do we check for?

I would recommend getting a mole scan every 6 months. Melanoma isn’t always preventable, but you can reduce your chances of developing it by avoiding getting sunburned (even going pink in the sun).

So how can we prevent cancerous moles?

Staying out of the sun, off sunbeds and regularly using sun cream lotion. As I mentioned, getting regular skin checks is a good idea, as well as being safe and “sun smart” as the Aussies like to call it.

What should we look out for?

Any changes to your skin can be a concern, but in particular look out for growing size, changing shape, developing new colours, bleeding, pain, crusting, red around the edges or itching. About once a month, check your skin for moles or marks that are changing or new.

What is melanoma?

It’s the most dangerous form of skin cancer. These cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells – most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds – triggers mutations (genetic defects) that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours. Melanomas often resemble moles; some develop from moles. The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-coloured, pink, red, purple, blue or white.

Broadly speaking you can group skin cancers into melanoma and non melanoma. Melanomas are less common than non-melanoma skin cancers, but they are one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer. They can develop from existing moles, but they more often appear as new marks on the skin.

Is melanoma common?

Sadly, increasingly so. It is in fact the fastest growing cancer in the UK.

So, what is the The Original ATBM® Automated Total Body Mapping Machine, and how does it help?

It’s a state of the art German manufactured digital mole analysis machine. Caught early, skin cancer is treatable. For this reason, we put all our efforts into developing imaging systems which help to discover skin cancer as early as possible. With FotoFinder state-of-the-art technology, your doctor has your skin in focus at all times – thanks to long-term, regular monitoring of individual moles and the skin as a whole. Once pictures have been taken, they can be compared with new images time and time again. Minute changes are immediately evident and can be diagnosed early!

Why is this revolutionary machine something we should know about? 

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK but most cancers can be cured if detected early. Some people might not realise this, and we are far behind other countries such as Australia. They are very advanced in being “sun smart” and their methods of detection are much better than we have here. We are aiming to change that with our state-of-the-art scanning.

Currently you see a mole and you see your GP. He or she asks you some basic questions and then decides whether to watch and wait or refer you to the dermatology clinic to have a photo image of the mole. They may in some cases remove the mole and leave you with a big scar. Whilst this is great for preventing any suspected cancers, it does leave those without cancer with a horrible scar. This machine aims to offer you a more concrete way of diagnosing the mole BEFORE you have to cut it out.

How can it prevent people from getting melanoma by identifying moles?

The “ugly duckling” is not always visible at a glance so this machine helps to spot them. Recent studies show that 71% of all melanomas do not develop from existing nevi, but develop de novo on healthy skin. In order to diagnose these as early as possible complete prevention must include not only individual moles but the entire skin through an intelligent combination of automated whole body photography and video dermoscopy.

This “two-step method of digital follow-up” is the most advanced method for monitoring the skin and is used by opinion leaders worldwide with FotoFinder.

How much does mole mapping cost?

Pricing varies but for the full body map it’s £300. This is a small price to pay 6-12 monthly to make sure you don’t have skin cancer.

Can you remove moles – if so how?

I would suggest a referral to a plastic surgeon to do this – this way any scar would be minimised.

How long does a scar take to heal if you do get it removed and what’s the best way to prevent them?

You would only remove a mole if there was high suspicion on the scan that this was a melanoma. Using the complex scanning algorithm embedded in the scanner we are able to narrow down the amount of moles that need to be surgically removed. This unnecessary removal of moles means less unsightly scars to heal. Scars can last a lifetime, so it is important to only remove a mole as a last resort. If you do get a scar we can treat you with platelet therapy to reduce the scar footprint.

Can we go somewhere to get our moles checked?

Yes absolutely! If not to the doctors then EpicDermis medical run a full mole analysis service.

You can find more information about moles on the NHS website or get in touch with EpicDermis here at 020 8417 1114, [email protected]