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EVER HAD YOUR MOLES CHECKED OUT?

I have often been told that the multitude of moles on my back look dodgy, so I was apprehensive when I had them scrutinised by skin cancer specialist Dr Dagmar Whitaker.

With the help of a sophisticated computerised scanning system known as mole-mapping, Dr Whitaker, a dermatologist, is able to detect which moles are cancerous.

She explained that mole-mapping is useful because it not only detects an immediate problem, but your moles are scanned digitally and then stored so that when you return for a follow up later, you can detect any changes in the composition and density of the mole - which is one of the key signs of skin cancer.

The moles are scanned, then the dodgy ones are put through a risk assessment scoring system - the higher the score, the higher the danger. High-risk moles are cut out and sent to a pathologist for a diagnosis.

Dr Whitaker says that of the 20 - 30 -odd scans she conducts a month, she detects about 5 - 6 melanomas She finds it frustrating that in spite of increased awareness, skin cancer statistics are constantly rising. "I find it shocking that so many people still go into the sun unprotected."

The key to fighting skin cancer - which can be deadly - is the early detection of malignancy, she says. "The depth of an invasion is critical. You need to catch it while it is still safe. The deeper it gets, the more dangerous it gets. If it grows to a certain depth of say 2 to 3 mm, you can die. Therefore it is critical to catch it early."

Whitaker then scanned the moles on my body, and isolated three that she ran three through a scoring test.

I was relieved that all three were low scores.

She diagnosed me as low-risk and said I should return in a year to make sure that there had been no changes in my mole map.

Dr Whitaker recommends that people who have been exposed to the sun, or who have more than 50 moles on their body, or who are genetically predisposed to cancer (i.e. having a close relative who has got a Melanoma), should consider seeing a specialist.

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