This simple test at home can help you determine your risk of skin cancer.
It takes just two minutes. All you have to do is roll your sleeves up on your cardigan or shirt.
There are many types of skin cancers that fall under the umbrella of non-melanoma or melanoma.
Non-melanoma skin tumors are diagnosed an average of 147,000 times per year in the UK. They grow in the upper skin layers.
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’s your skin’s appearance.
SkinVisionAn app that monitors the skin for signs and changes offers a quick and easy method to determine your risk of developing skin cancer.
This involves counting the number moles and freckles that are on the skin of one’s arm.
Follow these steps:
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. You should look for moles in all shapes and sizes. 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. You should count your entire arm to the point where it touches 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 indicates that your body has probably less 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
Your body probably has between 50 and 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. This simply means you are more likely than someone with fewer moles to develop skin cancer.
What is the point of counting moles?
Anyone can develop skin cancer. There are some people that are more likely to get skin cancer.
- Numerous moles and freckles, large or small, are common
- Skin that is pale and easily burns
- Blonde or red hair
- A close family member has had skin cancer
- Blue or green eyes
Skin cancer risk can be determined by the number of freckles on your skin.
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.
Basal cell and squamous-cell skin cancers can both be caused by keratinocytes.
Cells are constantly being shed and replaced by new ones. Exposed to too much sunlight can cause DNA damage.
This can become a problem over time. This causes cells to grow uncontrollably, leading to cancerous tumours.
Skin cancer called Melanoma
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.
Melanocytes are also the site of cancer.
Too much UV causes sunburn, and this is a sign of damage to the skin’s DNA.
The UV causes changes in melanocytes. This makes the genetic material faulty and can cause abnormal cell growth.
People who burn easily are more susceptible to skin cancer. This is because their cells don’t produce as much pigment to protect the skin.
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.”
Here are some signs to look out for
All that said, how can you tell which skin changes are important?
AXA Health Carehave put together a simple video to help people keep an eye on their moles and identify early if there are any potential problems.
They suggest that you use the simple “ABCDE”The majority of experts promote the rule.
A – Asymmetry
It could be a sign that you have skin cancer if a spot becomes larger or smaller than it already is.
It could grow suddenly or change over the course of time. If it is asymmetrical, it’s a good idea get it checked out by a GP.
B – Borders
A red flag sign that you have skin cancer is a spot with irregular borders.
You may have a mole or freckle that you’ve had for years, but suddenly it’s got a funny border.
Oder you have an unusual looking spot.
Regardless of your situation, consult your GP.
C – Colour change
Different colours can be found in cancerous moles.
A mole already existing may be darker.
Talk to your doctor if you notice a spot that has different colors or becomes darker.
D – Diameter
This is the point where you want to look for a mole which starts growing.
Although it may not seem obvious at first, it may become apparent over time.
A GP must be consulted immediately if a mole is growing.
E – Elevation
Most moles and freckles tend to be flat against 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.
You should immediately book an appointment with your GP if you see any of these symptoms.
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