Mole-mapping

A person with a large number of moles

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What is mole-mapping?

Mole mapping is when a dermatologist (skin specialist) photographs or maps the moles on your skin. Then, over weeks, months or years, the dermatologist will compare any changes to what he or she mapped the first time, to spot melanoma early if it happens. Mole mapping isn’t necessary unless you are at high risk of melanoma. Talk to you doctor if you’re worried about skin cancer. 

Who should consider having their moles mapped?

People who are at increased risk of melanoma should consider having their moles mapped. This includes anyone with:

  • Large number of moles (more than 50).
  • Moles that are large, or have an unusual colour or shape.
  • Previous history of melanoma.
  • A strong family history of melanoma.
  • Pale skin that burns easily in the sun.
  • Episodes of previous severe sunburn.
  • A lot of sun exposure, including outdoor workers and people who take regular sun holidays.
  • A suppressed immune system.
  • Moles on the back, which may be difficult to keep an eye on. 
  • Any recent changes to individual moles.

How is mole-mapping done?

The dermatologist will:

  1. Mark spots on a cartoon drawing of you to show where any unusual marks are.
  2. Take photographs or digital images of the skin all over your body and save them for comparison on your next mapping appointment. 
  3. Use a special hand-held microscope called a dermascope to look very closely at your skin.
  4. Decide if there are any signs of melanoma.
  5. Send a report to you or your GP.

The dermatologist will also follow up with you:

  • 3 to 6 months later about any unusual marks that are not removed
  • 1 to 2 years later for a check-up, or as your doctor recommends

If the dermatologist finds an unusual mark, he or she will remove it to have it examined. The dermatologist will then decide if more tests are needed.

For more information

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1800 200 700

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