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2 May 2023

Mole Mapping, Skin Cancer Screening in Gibraltar

Mole mapping in Gibraltar

We have recently launched a mole mapping service at the Specialist Medical Clinic, to add to our comprehensive cancer screenings in Gibraltar. As this is a medical technique which might not be familiar to everyone, we’ve asked our Dermatology Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nuria Campos to answer some frequently asked questions about it.

Let’s start with identifying the signs of skin cancer

An unusual skin growth or sore that doesn’t go away may be the first indication of a non-melanoma skin cancer.

These are some changes to look out for when checking your skin for suspicious signs of skin cancer:

  • New moles.
  • Moles that increases in size.
  • An outline of a mole that becomes notched.
  • A mole that changes colour from brown to black or is varied.
  • The surface of a mole becoming rough, scaly or ulcerated.
  • A growth that becomes raised or develops a lump within it.
  • Moles and skin growths that bleed or weep.
  • Spots that look different from the others

Regular examination of the skin for any new or unusual growths, or changes in existing moles is critical. Here’s a good guide on how to check your skin and what to look for.

What is the link between moles and skin cancer? 

Having more than 100 ordinary moles on your body indicates an increased risk of melanoma. Also, people having lots of unusually shaped or large moles (atypical mole syndrome) have a higher risk of melanoma than the general population.

Can you develop skin cancer without moles? If so, what are the other symptoms?

Yes you can, as there are a few different types.

The first sign of non-melanoma skin cancer is usually the appearance of a lump or discoloured patch on the skin that persists after a few weeks and slowly progresses over months or sometimes years.

In most cases, cancerous lumps are red and firm and sometimes turn into ulcers, while cancerous patches are usually flat and scaly.

You should check your skin for signs of skin cancer on a regular basis to ensure it is identified and treated early.

Thanks for that. So, tell us about mole mapping. What is it and how does it help in the early detection of skin cancer?

Mole mapping is a reliable medical technique used to monitor moles on the skin to see if they’re turning cancerous or have the potential to become cancerous in the future and to identify any moles or lesions which may be malignant.

Mole mapping uses photography to track any changes to your moles over time. These changes can include changes in the size, shape and colour of your moles; signs that they could potentially be turning cancerous.

Early detection via screening is vitally important for not only detecting melanomas at earlier stages but also for preventing melanomas.

How reliable is mole mapping for detecting skin cancer?

Mole mapping is a highly accurate and effective way to identify melanoma in its very early stages. Using AI technology, in conjunction with high-resolution digital

imaging, skin mole mapping provides highly detailed information about your skin and charts changes in a way that no other mole check can.

If someone comes to you for mole mapping, what is the process?

During the mole mapping appointment, a specialist nurse will record your medical history to identify any risk factors for skin cancer.

Your skin will be examined closely using a magnifying light, looking at each mole to identify any suspicious moles.

High quality digital photographs of your whole body’s skin surface will be taken initially. Then we use a technique called digital photo-dermoscopy to take close up photographs of each mole.

Once that has been done, a report is given to you, which includes suspected diagnoses and recommendations for treatment.

In most cases, no melanoma will be found. Under these circumstances, we will usually offer to repeat the screening in 6 to 12 months, or sooner if you notice any changes in the meantime.

At these follow-up screenings, your previously stored photographs are used as a baseline to detect any new or changing moles.

If you feel there is a likelihood of skin cancer following mole mapping what are the next steps?

If any of your moles have suspicious features of melanoma you will be advised to have it removed surgically so that the mole can be sent to a laboratory for analysis by a specialised dermatology pathologist.

What treatment options are there for skin cancer?

The good news is that basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, the two most common forms of skin cancer, are highly treatable if detected early and treated properly. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99%.

Surgery is the primary treatment for most skin cancers. Other options include:

  • Cryotherapy
  • Topical Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Photodynamic therapy

Who are good candidates for mole mapping?

We’d encourage people who are at increased risk of the development of skin cancer to use mole mapping to ensure any issues are spotted early. This includes those with:

  • A large number of moles
  • Moles that have an unusual appearance (atypical moles)
  • A family history of skin cancer
  • A personal history of skin cancer
  • Pale skin that easily burns in the sun
  • Episodes of previous severe sun burn
  • A suppressed immune system

Please contact the clinic to find out whether you would be a good candidate for mole mapping or to make an appointment.

Lastly, we all know that prevention is better than cure and Gibraltar has beautiful sunny weather. Can you give us some advice on how we should be protecting ourselves and our families against skin cancer?

Melanoma is not always preventable, but you can reduce your chances of developing it by avoiding getting sunburned. Even going pink in the sun increases your risk.

You need to be very careful, particularly in summer and if you have pale skin and many moles.

You can help protect yourself from sun damage by using high factor sunscreen, such as Altruist which is available in the clinic, and making sure to regularly reapply it and dressing sensibly in the sun. Hats and light clothing that covers your skin is a sensible choice if you are prone to burning easily.

Sunbeds and sunlamps should be avoided.

Please also take the time to get to know your skin and look out for any changes. Regularly checking your skin can help lead to an early diagnosis and increase your chances of successful treatment.

Meet the expert

Nuria Campos is a Dermatology Clinical Nurse Specialist over 20 years’ nursing experience including 10 years experience in the area of Dermatology. Her areas of expertise within the speciality include chronic skin disease management, skin cancer, Dermoscopy, Cryotherapy, Skin patch testing and Phototherapy.

For more information or to make an appointment to see Nuria, please contact us.