This simple, at-home test predicts if your skin will develop cancer

You can easily find out your skin cancer risk with this easy at-home test.

It takes just two minutes. All you have to do is roll your sleeves up on your cardigan or shirt.

Counting the moles on your arm can indicate skin cancer risk


Skin cancer risk can be determined by counting the moles around your arms.Credit: Getty

There are many types of skin cancers that fall under the umbrellas of non-melanoma or melanoma.

Non-melanoma, or skin cancers that are not melanoma, are detected a total of 147,000 times each year in the UK. 

Melanoma, which is less common than other types, is diagnosed approximately 16,000 times per year. However, it is the most serious type and has the potential to spread throughout the body.

Exposition to the sun is responsible for most skin cancer cases.

However, how much time you spend out in the sun doesn’t tell you how likely you are to get skin cancer.

It is your skin appearance.

The test

SkinVisionAn app that monitors the skin for signs and changes offers a quick and easy method to determine your risk of developing skin cancer.

It involves counting how many freckles and moles are present on the arm’s skin.

These steps are to be followed:

1. Your right arm should be used as your test area. This is usually accessible for most people and you can see it easily. It was also identified in both men and women as being highly predictive.

2. Find moles of all sizes and shapes. Even if they are tiny (like a freckle) you should count it. You may also see some skin discolorations – take note of them, but it may be tricky to include them in your count unless they are very distinct.

3. Start counting at your wrist and move around the arm and upwards towards the elbow. The entire arm should be counted up to the shoulder. If you need to use a mirror to see the back of the arm, you should do so.

4. Keep track of the number, and then count again to be certain.


Below 7 moles

This means that your body probably has fewer than 50 moles. 

This is indicative of a relatively low risk of melanoma, but you should still carefully watch any moles that you do have.

Between 7 to 11 moles

Most likely, you have between 50-100 moles.

As the figure increases your risk factor does too. So at this level, you should pay even closer attention to the moles you have.

More than 11 moles

You are likely to have more than 100 moles on your body and are therefore in the highest risk group.

Your risk factor can be five to six times higher than someone who has very few moles. 

It may pay for you to carefully map your moles and to keep close watch over them – maybe by using a tracking app. You should also mention your results to your doctor so they have awareness.

You don’t have to get skin cancer if you have many moles. You are just more likely to get skin cancer if you have many moles.

Why do we count moles?

Skin cancer can happen to anyone. There are some people that are more likely to get skin cancer.


  • Numerous moles and freckles, large or small, are common
  • Pale skin that easily burns
  • Blonde or red hair
  • A close family member has had skin cancer
  • Blue or green eyes 

A sign of skin cancer risk is the number of freckles that you have.

It could be that it indicates a pale complexion or a lighter skin tone.

Cancer Research UK reports that a study has shown that people who have more than 100 moles are at higher risk for melanoma. This is in contrast to people with 15 or fewer moles.

No matter your skin type or color, you should all be protected against the dangers of excessive UV exposure.

However, if you have more moles or freckles than the average person, or any other risk factor, it’s a reason to be more alert to any skin changes.

What causes skin cancer? And why are certain people more at risk than others?

Skin cancer can be caused by ultraviolet light exposure, from sun or sunbeds.

Non-melanoma, skin cancer

The cells in the epidermis – the top layer of the skin – are most at risk of sun damage.

The most common cells in the epidermis are the keratinocytes.

Keratinocytes are responsible for both basal and squamous cells skin cancers.

Cells are constantly being shed and replaced by new cells. But, too much sun can cause DNA damage.

This can become a problem over time. It can cause cells to grow in uncontrolled ways, which can lead to cancerous tumors.

Melanoma skin carcinoma

Because they produce melanin, melanocytes (cells in the skin) give our skin its colour.

When you sit in the sun, melanocytes produce more pigment (a sun tan), which spreads to other skin cells to protect them from the sun’s rays.

However, melanocytes can also be the place where cancer begins.

Too much UV causes sunburn, and this is a sign of damage to the skin’s DNA. 

The UV light triggers changes within the melanocytes. This causes the genetic material to become defective and abnormal cell growth.

Because skin cancer is more common in people who burn easily, their skin does not produce as many pigments to protect it.

People with albinism are most at risk, as their skin does not produce any pigment.

Cancer Research UK says: “People with darker skins can still get melanoma but they have more natural protection against it.

“It’s rare for black people in the UK to get melanoma. If African or Asian people do get melanoma, it’s most often a type of melanoma that develops on the soles of the feet or the palms of the hands (acral lentiginous melanoma). This type of melanoma can also grow under the nail.”

These are the signs to be on the lookout for

All that said, how can you tell which skin changes are important?

AXA Health Care have put together a simple video to help people keep an eye on their moles and identify early if there are any potential problems.

They recommend using the simple “ABCDE”The majority of experts promote the rule.

A – Asymmetry

This simple, at-home test predicts if your skin will develop cancer

It could indicate skin cancer if a spot becomes larger or smaller than it already is.

It can grow very quickly or change over time. However, if it’s asymmetrical, it’s a good idea for a GP to check it.

B – Borders

This simple, at-home test predicts if your skin will develop cancer

A red flag sign that you have skin cancer is a spot with irregular borders.

It could be a freckle, mole, or mole that you have had for years and suddenly has a funny border.

Oder you have an unusual looking spot.

Regardless, you should see your GP.

C – Colour change

This simple, at-home test predicts if your skin will develop cancer

Different colours can be found in cancerous moles.

A mole already existing may be darker.

Do not risk a spot that is coloured differently or darkening faster than usual.

D – Diameter

This simple, at-home test predicts if your skin will develop cancer

This is the point where you want to look for a mole which starts growing.

It may not be obvious at first but it will become more noticeable over time.

A GP must be consulted immediately if a mole is growing.

E – Elevation

This simple, at-home test predicts if your skin will develop cancer

Most moles and freckles are flat against the skin.

A sign of skin cancer is a sudden rise in one of these.

A raised mole on the skin is not a sign of cancer.

It’s safer to be safe than sorry if you spot any of these signs. Book a n appointment immediately with your GP.

Video tutorial makes it easy to run an ‘ABCDE” test to determine if a mole may be cancerous.

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