How often should I see my dermatologist for skin cancer prevention? I’m a 31-year-old woman. I’ve lived in Florida for most of my life and recently moved to the UK. I have a history of childhood sunburns. Also, I have an odd looking mole. Should I be worried that it will turn into cancer?
Dr Rob Sheehan-Dare, Consultant Dermatologist, Spire Leeds Hospital
If you have had a lot of sun exposure in the past, a skin check with a Dermatologist is often a good idea, as skin cancers can be difficult to detect, and advice on how to monitor your skin for signs of skin cancer is useful. With the right advice, it is often possible to monitor your own skin and see your Dermatologist only if you find something you are concerned about.
Some people find a yearly visit helpful, but may eventually feel confident enough to observe their own skin after a few visits. Regular monitoring visits are particularly advisable for people who have had a number of skin cancers in the past, who may be on medication which increases their risk of skin cancer, or have difficulty examining their skin due to poor eyesight or mobility problems (as may result from arthritis).
Moles which look odd due to being unusually large, or uneven in shape or colour are common and usually innocent. However, it is very important not to ignore an odd looking mole as there is a chance that it might be a melanoma skin cancer. All odd looking moles should be checked by a GP and/or a Dermatologist. If they are thought to be indicative of a melanoma skin cancer, they would need to be removed. Removing melanoma skin cancers early gives the best chance of a cure. If an odd looking mole is thought to be benign, it would not need to be removed, but would be best observed as part of ongoing self monitoring of your skin.