This week I heard on the news that if you have more than 11 moles on your arm then you’re at a greater risk of skin cancer.
Had I heard this two weeks ago, before I’d met the consultant dermatologist of dreams and had all of my moles checked and one removed, then this news would’ve tipped me over the edge.
You see I’d been doing that thing that lots us, particularly the more neurotic amongst us, do. I’d identified that I had lots of moles and was secretley harbouring the idea that I was battling skin cancer,which had probably spread to my brain and was slowly killing me. The occasional tingling sensation in my back was surely a sign of cancer – I always knew that I’d die young!
My Mail Online habit has done nothing to help this overarching fear. Every month they seem to run a story of a young woman with weeks to live having been diagnosed with skin cancer after using sun beds or sunbathing too much in her teens . While it’s undoubtedly good that they’re raising awareness about skin cancer, it comes from such a place of fear that I started to think the worst and became too terrified to do anything about mine.
Despite my pale skin and light blue eyes I used sun beds for a while when I was younger, desperate to be a bronzed goddess, even though I reeked of burning flesh after each session and once burned by back so bad that I couldn’t lie on it for days.
Sunbathing also used to be a big part of my life. My dad lived in Spain while I was in my teens and I would fly over every holiday, slather myself in Olive Oil or Hawaiian Tropic factor 4 and bake myself silly while listening to Jewel and Enrique Eglasias by the pool.
I was obsessed with being brown, actually I still am but now it’s always fake. Being brown makes clothes look nicer, teeth whiter and naked flesh less wobbly. Back then though, even as a very early adopter of self tan, I wanted a real tan too. That glow from the sun and a healthy smattering of freckles just can’t be replicated from a bottle. Of course I now know that frying celtic skin like that is crazy but in your late teens and early 20’s you think that you’re invincible.
Back then I also didn’t know that I had quite so many moles. It wasn’t until I was trying on an (ill advised luminous pink) pre -holiday bikini in 2007 in a 3D mirrored changing room in River Island that I realised just how moley I was, especially on my back.
I went to my GP who confirmed I did indeed have lots of moles and referred me to a consultant, who gasped “Gosh you do have a lot of moles,” when I removed my top. Just what I wanted to hear from a person who looks at moles all day. Anyway she had a look, told me to protect my skin and then had pictures taken of each mole so I could keep an eye on them for changes. My fears were allayed for a few years.
I was told that as time went on I would probably get a few more moles, which is normal but to keep an eye for changes, like these:
- A – asymmetry
- B – border irregularity
- C – colour change
- D – diameter
- E – elevated (raised) or enlarged
A new mole appeared on my lower leg a couple of years ago. That set off a red flag because in women that’s the most common location of cancerous moles, however after a few weeks of worrying, a trip to the GP once more put my fears to rest.
Eight years after my initial visit to the consultant I was worrying about my moles once again. Have you noticed that worrying is a bit of a theme here? A few moles had changed slightly in appearance and I had a tingling in my back and feeling of general tiredness that had me convinced something could be wrong.
It wasn’t until my friend, who is also a nurse, asked me to get the the moles on my back checked again that I actually did something about it. This time I was sent to a consultant who had the best bedside manner for a person like me.
Taking my fears seriously, he assured me that the tingling does not indicate skin cancer, that yes I do have a lot of moles, which technically puts me at an increased of skin cancer but because I’m hyper aware and ( now) having regular checks this means I’m probably less likely than a less moley member of the population to be caught out by a melanoma.
According to him, you can usually spot a melanoma across the room (although this isn’t always the case). He identified one mole that looked different to the rest of the moles on my body, it’s actually smaller than many of the others but much darker in colour and for that reason he decided to have it removed not, he said, “because I secretly think it’s a melanoma,” although it will be checked. Apparently I might have a few removed as the years roll on.
Now I sit, one mole less and with 4 stitches in my back. The procedure was straight forward and I feel much better about my moles than I have in nearly a decade.
My advice to you, dear readers, is this. Never go on sun beds,always slather on the sunscreen and if you have any moles then get them checked, it’s so simple and there’s really nothing to fear.