A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to undergo a Mole Mapping examination and thankfully the results came back all clear, however some people are not so lucky as Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in New Zealand, affecting around 45,000 Kiwis a year, with about 320 dying from the disease annually.
Dr Mark Gray, a skin cancer specialist and medical director at MoleMap, says that although we are given constant warnings about melanoma, people still aren’t getting the message. “Kiwis continue to have the mindset that it won’t happen to them – so they don’t get regularly checked to detect melanoma early,” says Dr Gray.
So with summer well on its way and sunburn imminent we thought it was time we found out a little more about MoleMap, Melanoma and why early detection is so important.
What exactly is a MoleMap?
A MoleMap is an advanced melanoma detection programme which combines a comprehensive full-body skin examination, digital dermoscopy, total body photography, digital serial monitoring and the skills of expert dermatologists to identify melanoma skin cancer.
What happens during and after a MoleMap consultation?
A MoleMap consultation is one hour long and conducted by a melanographer, a nurse trained in skin cancer and dermoscopic imaging. The consultation begins with high-resolution total body photography to create a base record of the patient’s skin, and then followed by a full-body skin examination.
Moles that fit imaging criteria are then imaged using digital and clinical dermoscopy, and ‘mapped’ onto their body, and relevant data about the mole recorded.
Patient skin history and risk factors are assessed and documented.
Patient education and information is also provided to increase their knowledge, helping them to reduce their risks and detect melanoma early.
After a MoleMap, patient images are sent via a secure network to an expert dermatologist to assess. A report is sent to the patient and their doctor providing comments and recommendations for the treatment or monitoring of lesions of concern, a general melanoma risk rating, and a recommended MoleMap follow-up programme.
In follow-up visits, a patient’s data can be accessed and their moles assessed against their base-line images for any changes. As melanomas change over time, having this base-line to track moles over a period of time enables dermatologists to notice changes that may indicate early stage melanoma.
What is a Melanoma and why is it so important that they are detected early?
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer which occurs when our skin produces abnormal melanocytes (pigment cells). The leading cause of melanoma is overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. If detected early, melanoma is treatable. However, if left untreated it can develop quickly, spread, and can be fatal, which is why an early detection programme is vital in improving patient outcome.
Are there any signs we can look for at home when trying to detect a Melanoma or skin cancer?
Yes. Everyone should keep an eye on their skin, as the better we know our own skin, the more chance we have of detecting melanoma early. The main things to check a lesion for are the ABCDE’s
Asymmetry – irregular in shape
Border – the border or outline is ragged or uneven
Colour – variation in colour within the lesion
Diameter –greater than 6mm across
Evolution – changing moles
Who is most at risk?
Individuals most at risk include those with a history or sunburn in the past- especially in their childhood; a large number of moles; fair or red hair and light coloured eyes; fair skin that burns easily; a history of sunbed/solarium use; a family or personal history of melanoma or other skin cancers; or those who engage in outdoor activities.