The number of mole on your arm could ‘predicts skin cancer risk’

Counting moles on the right arm
was found to be a good
indicator of total moles on the
body. More than 100 indicates
five times the normal risk.
The study, published in the
British Journal of Dermatology,
used data from 3,000 twins in
the UK.
GPs could use the findings to
identify those most at risk, it said.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer
affecting more than 13,000
people in the UK each year.
It develops from abnormal moles,
so the risk of being diagnosed
with a melanoma is linked to the
number of moles a patient has.
Researchers from King's College
London studied a large group of
female twins over a period of
eight years, collecting
information on skin type, freckles
and moles on their bodies.
After repeating the exercise on a
smaller group of around 400
men and women with
melanoma, they came up with a
quick and easy way to assess the
risk of skin cancer.
Moles, freckles and melanoma
Freckles are small usually pale
brown areas of skin, which
are often temporary and are
usually linked to sun exposure
Moles are small coloured spots
on the skin made up of cells
called melanocytes, which
produce the colour (pigment)
in your skin. They are long-
lasting and are not directly
linked to sun exposure, but
excess sun exposure will
increase your risk of skin
cancer and can make a mole
turn malignant
Moles can be flat, raised,
smooth or rough and may
have hair growing from them
They are usually brownish in
colour and are circular or oval
with a smooth edge
Most moles are completely
If you notice any changes to
your moles or a worried about
them, see your GP
Things to look for: Uneven
colouring, uneven or ragged
edges, bleeding, itching,
Source: NHS Choices
Females with more than seven
moles on their right arm had
nine times the risk of having
more than 50 on their whole
Those with more than 11 on
their right arm were more likely
to have more than 100 on their
body in total, meaning they were
at a higher risk of developing a
The findings could help GPs to
identify those with an increased
risk of developing a melanoma.
Sun safety
What sun protection factor
should I use?
The higher the sun protection
factor (SPF), the more protection
you get. Use sunscreen with a
SPF of at least 15. Use broad-
spectrum sunscreens, which
protect against harmful UVA and
UVB rays.
How long can I stay in the sun?
No longer than you would
without sunscreen. Sunscreen
should not be used as an excuse
to stay out in the sun – it offers
protection when exposure is
unavoidable. The summer sun is
most damaging to your skin in
the middle of the day.
What should I do if I get
Paracetamol or ibuprofen will
ease the pain by helping to
reduce inflammation caused by
sunburn. Sponge sore skin with
cool water, then apply after sun
or calamine lotion. If you feel
unwell or the skin swells badly or
blisters, seek medical help. Stay
out of the sun until all signs of
redness have gone.
Should I cover up my mole
when I'm in the sun?
If you have lots of moles or
freckles, you're more likely to
develop skin cancer, so you need
to take extra care. Avoid getting
caught out by sunburn. Use
shade, clothing and sunscreen
with an SPF of at least 15. Keep
an eye out for changes to your
skin and report these to your
doctor without delay.
Source: NHS
Lead author Simone Ribero, of
the department of twin research
and genetic epidemiology at
King's, said: "The findings could
have a significant impact for
primary care, allowing GPs to
more accurately estimate the
total number of moles in a
patient extremely quickly via an
easily accessible body part."
Consultant dermatologist and
study co-author Veronique
Bataille said if a patient was
worried about an abnormal mole
and went to see their GP,
counting moles on one arm
"might ring alarm bells" and
highlight those patients who
should be seen by a specialist
more quickly.
Dr Claire Knight, health
information manager at Cancer
Research UK, said the study
findings were helpful, but added
that fewer than half of
melanomas develop from
existing moles.
"It's important to know what's
normal for your skin and to tell
your doctor about any change in
the size, shape, colour or feel of a
mole or a normal patch of skin,"
she said.
"And don't just look at your arms
– melanoma can develop
anywhere on the body, and is
most common on the trunk in
men and the legs in women."


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