February is typically the hottest month in South Africa and with International Cancer Day on the 4th, we draw attention to some preventative measures related to skin cancer this month. Mole mapping is one of these – read more below on why you should go.
Mole mapping is a crucial tool in the early detection of melanoma. But what is a melanoma exactly and why is this important? “I lost my step father to cancer in 2014,” says Amy Hopkins, one of our #MedshieldMovement ambassadors. “In 2014, he developed a melanoma. While attempts were made to remove the physical melanoma on his arm, it turned out that the cancer had already spread internally to his brain and he died a few months later. He had a number of moles and his own father had passed away from cancer, but he’d never been for mole mapping. It was a big learning experience for me.”
What exactly is melanoma?
Melanoma is a kind of skin cancer and is often referred to as the most serious skin cancer because it has a tendency to spread. Melanoma can develop within a mole that you already have on your skin or it can appear suddenly as a dark spot on your skin. Melanoma also typically starts on the skin that’s often exposed to the sun. Most melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light (UV light).
How can mole mapping detect melanoma?
By regularly monitoring your skin for changes, dermatologists can identify potential issues and provide proactive treatment. Mole mapping – which uses photography to track changes to your moles over time – will alert your dermatologist to the earliest possible stage of melanoma development. Early detection is important, because the skin cancer can then be removed before it spreads to other organs in your body.
Who should consider going for mole mapping?
Your skin is your largest organ and it’s essential that we all look after our skin. Most humans have pigment lesions – spots or growths on the skin caused by melanocytes. These cells produce melanin – the substance in the skin that gives skin its colour or pigment. These “pigment lesions” include moles, freckles, birthmarks and age spots. If you have a history of skin cancer in your family or if you’re concerned about your skin, it’s worth consulting with a dermatologist.