The National Cancer Institute estimates that melanoma will be the fifth most common cancer in the United States in 2022. This estimate excludes basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, emphasizing the comparative danger that melanoma represents.
While very few melanoma lesions develop from moles, these lesions often resemble moles as they develop, and the presence of many moles indicates an elevated risk for later melanoma development. Monitoring existing moles and checking for new lesions is the best way to catch melanoma in its earliest stages when it has its highest cure rates.
MD Vein & Skin Specialists enlist the aid of the FotoFinder® mole mapping system. We believe it’s the best computer-integrated way to record, store, and compare vital skin and mole information for early skin cancer detection.
The fundamentals of melanoma
Pigment cells in your skin, called melanocytes, have an increased risk of becoming cancerous with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, such as from the sun or tanning salons. When melanocytes mutate, cancer called melanoma develops.
Though melanoma usually forms on the skin, it can occur in the eyes and, more rarely, inside the body in places like the nose or throat. You can also develop melanoma lesions on skin surfaces that don’t receive much exposure to the sun.
While UV light contributes, it’s not the only cause of melanoma. Other factors that damage the DNA in melanocytes aren’t fully understood.
Moles and melanoma
Moles form from clusters of melanocytes. They can be present at birth, but most moles form in childhood and up to about the age of 40. Common moles can start to fade in older adults. Usually found above the waist on sun-exposed skin, most people have between 10 and 40 moles on their bodies. Common moles don’t often turn into melanomas, but it is possible. People with more than 50 moles have a higher risk of developing melanoma.
Changes to existing moles and the development of new, irregularly shaped moles may indicate a cancerous lesion. Mapping and tracking moles and other lesions help to identify melanomas when they’re easiest to treat.
What is mole mapping, and am I a good candidate?
Any system that allows you to compare moles over time could be considered mole mapping. At MD Vein & Skin Specialists, we use the automated FotoFinder full-body scanner. FotoFinder systematically scans your body, creating a detailed map of the moles on your body, helping Dr. Banda identify likely spots where skin cancer might emerge. Trouble spots can then be photographed in greater detail. With your computerized records safely stored, future comparisons are easy and effective.
Mole mapping may be right for you if you have:
- More than 50 common moles
- A family history of skin cancer and melanoma
- A fair-skinned complexion
- Moles larger than one-quarter-inch in diameter
- Asymmetrical moles
- Moles that are changing in size, shape, or color
- New moles that emerge later in life
- A history of one or more severe sunburns
Anyone who spends time in the sun must be careful about their UV exposure levels. Dress appropriately, use sunscreen, and take a pass on the tanning salon. For the greatest margin of safety, visit us at MD Vein & Skin Specialists for a complete FotoFinder mole mapping session. You can reach our office online or by phone to schedule your appointment today.