Skin Cancer Explained

Free spot checks with our Full Body MoleMap. This is why.

How often have you wondered if a mole is ‘just a mole’ or whether it’s something more sinister? The thing is, pondering won’t pinpoint the early signs of skin cancer — but a spot check will.
June 30, 2023
5 minutes

90% of melanomas are cur­able, if caught and treat­ed ear­ly. But here’s the thing, most melanomas (around 80%) are spot­ted in new moles.

That’s two good rea­sons why we offer unlim­it­ed free spot checks between annu­al Full Body MoleMap visits at our skin cancer clinic.

Our free skin spot check means that if you notice any changes in your skin or moles between appoint­ments, or you spot a new mole — you can get it checked out quickly.

And, because our Full Body MoleMap includes total body imag­ing, you have a base­line of images to check new or exist­ing moles against. This makes it eas­i­er and faster to spot a sus­pect mole.

You also get the added reas­sur­ance that any moles of con­cern are checked by a melanog­ra­ph­er. (This is a reg­is­tered nurse who spe­cialis­es in skin can­cer triage).

If our melanog­ra­ph­er thinks a spot is sus­pi­cious, it’ll be sent to one of our con­sul­tant der­ma­tol­o­gists for dou­ble check­ing and a diag­no­sis. No refer­ral nec­es­sary. This means you get accu­rate results with­out the anx­i­ety of a lengthy wait.

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If in doubt, check it out

Melanoma is the most seri­ous type of skin can­cer. Sure, it’s less com­mon than basal cell car­ci­no­ma (BCC) and squa­mous cell car­ci­no­ma (SCC). But, if left untreat­ed, melanoma can eas­i­ly spread to oth­er parts of the body, mak­ing it par­tic­u­lar­ly dangerous.

Aus­tralia and New Zealand have the high­est rates of melanoma in the world. So, it’s impor­tant to know the signs and reg­u­lar­ly check your skin.

The first warn­ing sign is most often a new mole or a change in an exist­ing mole. Changes to watch for include:

Colour — has your mole changed in colour? Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. There may also be areas of white, grey, red, pink, or blue.

Size — melanomas tend to change in size, usu­al­ly becom­ing bigger.

Shape — is your mole asym­met­ri­cal (in that one half doesn’t match the other)?

Ele­va­tion — does the mole have a raised area or an uneven border?

Feel — does your mole feel firm, scaly or rough?

If a mole itch­es or bleeds, this is also a sign to get it checked out.

Will a DIY-skin check do the job?

We absolute­ly rec­om­mend you do an at-home skin check (ide­al­ly every three months) to help spot change ear­ly. But, let’s be hon­est, most of us aren’t exact­ly skin experts!

Even if you notice a mole that con­cerns you, there’s the risk that you might miss a poten­tial­ly more dan­ger­ous mole else­where on your body. This is why it’s essen­tial to have a year­ly, com­pre­hen­sive, head-to-toe skin check by a pro­fes­sion­al — par­tic­u­lar­ly if you’re at high risk of skin can­cer. (Uncer­tain about your skin can­cer risk? Take our risk quiz to find out.)

Plus, not all skin can­cer is easy to detect with the naked eye. At MoleMap, we use a der­mato­scope and a high-tech cam­era. This proven tech­nol­o­gy goes below the sur­face of the skin to detect can­cers much ear­li­er than visu­al checks alone.

Don’t for­get, the soon­er you spot skin can­cer, the greater the chance of a pos­i­tive outcome.

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Caus­es of melanoma

Most skin can­cers are linked to UV radi­a­tion. (This can be from the sun or oth­er sources, such as tan­ning beds.) So, it’s impor­tant to pro­tect your skin when spend­ing time out­doors. Yes, even in winter.

There are also a num­ber of oth­er fac­tors that can put some peo­ple at more risk of devel­op­ing skin can­cer, such as melanoma. This includes:

Per­son­al or fam­i­ly history

A pre­vi­ous indi­vid­ual his­to­ry of skin can­cer more than dou­bles the risk of get­ting it again. While a fam­i­ly his­to­ry (in a first-degree rel­a­tive) of skin can­cer, increas­es your risk by half.

Fair skin and hair colour

Peo­ple with fair skin and blonde or red hair have a high­er risk of sun dam­age and skin cancer.

A high num­ber of moles

The more moles you have, the high­er your risk of melanoma. One study found that melanoma risk was high­er in peo­ple with more than 50 moles, com­pared to peo­ple with few­er than 10 moles

A his­to­ry of sunburn

Sun­burn at any age, whether dur­ing your child­hood or adult life, increas­es your risk of skin can­cer lat­er in life.

Free spot checks for peace of mind

Our skin is always chang­ing. New moles may appear, and exist­ing spots can change dur­ing child­hood, ado­les­cent and even dur­ing preg­nan­cy. This is total­ly nor­mal. But, if you’re at all con­cerned (even just a tiny bit!) about a new or exist­ing mole — get it checked.

Book in for a mole check and get unlim­it­ed free skin can­cer checks for the 12 months between your next appointment.

1. Health Promotion Agency and the Melanoma Network of New Zealand (MelNet) 2017: New Zealand Skin Cancer Primary Prevention and Early Detection Strategy 2017 to 2022.

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