Cancer risk: Half of people don’t keep an eye on moles

Half of Irish people do not monitor their moles for crucial signs of melanoma — a dangerous form of skin cancer — it has emerged.

Research from the Marie Keating Foundation also found that one in five men cannot identify any of the visual signs of skin cancer.

Although women are more likely to develop melanoma, men are more likely to die from the cancer.

Melanoma is one of the 10 most common cancers in Ireland and the rates of diagnosis are increasing each year for both men and women.

The cancer foundation’s Spot the Difference campaign, launched yesterday, aims to help people spot the difference between normal moles and potentially cancerous ones.

It includes an infographic, a website featuring images of cancerous moles and a video with people affected by melanoma.

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Many Irish people have the risk factors for melanoma, including fair skin, a tendency to burn in the sun, and having lots of freckles or moles. Exposure to sunlight, especially short, sharp bursts during a sun holiday, also increases the risk, as does sunbed use.

Consultant dermatologist Dr Patrick Ormond said people should examine their skin from head to toe once a month so a changing freckle or mole could be caught early.

Dr Ormond urged people to look out for the ABCDE signs of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: Two sides of a melanoma will not match when a line is drawn through it;
  • Border: The border of an early melanoma tends to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched;
  • Colour: Most healthy moles are all one colour but a mole with different shades or black or tan is a warning sign. Melanomas may also be blue, red, or another colour;
  • Diameter: Melanomas are usually larger than the rubber at the top of a pencil;
  • Evolving: Any change in shape, colour, size, or height or any trait or new symptom like bleeding, itching, or crusting is a warning sign.

The foundation will hold a free seminar in the Alexander Hotel in Dublin on Thursday, May 21. More information is available at spotthedifference.ie.

Meanwhile, as part of a pan-European campaign to prevent skin cancer, the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital in Cork will provide a free skin cancer check for adults on Saturday.

It takes place at the outpatients’ department between 9am and noon.

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