Dermoscopy, also called dermatoscopy, is a non-invasive, painless, diagnostic technique whereby skin surface microscopy is used to examine a person’s moles (naevi or nevi) and other skin lesions, which are catalogued or ‘mapped’ to enable early diagnosis of malignant melanoma, which is a serious and aggressive form of skin cancer.
Dermoscopy requires a special tool, known as a dermoscope, which has a high quality magnifying lens and a powerful lighting system, to enable the clear many-fold magnification of the area being mapped. This allows the precise examination of skin structures and patterns not clearly visible to the naked eye and the evaluation of the pigmentation of lesions. Highly detailed images of your at-risk moles are taken in addition to panoramic images of the body that, in turn help to locate any skin degeneration in the future. Lesions are also measured and analyzed then the information is stored in a digital database to be used as part of a person’s skin cancer surveillance program. At regular follow-up examinations your mole images are taken again and compared to the previous ones in order to detect even the slightest changes and, therefore, possible skin cancer, at an early stage. This advanced method, mainly used to evaluate pigmented skin lesions, is often referred to as mole mapping and utilizes leading technology to identify and evaluate lesions of concern. Even in cases where patients have a large number of skin blemishes, nothing will be left unchecked thanks to this system. By means of regular observation of the stored skin images unnecessary excisions (removal) of benign (non cancerous) skin lesions can be avoided.
In recent years the number of melanoma cases has increased significantly. Both in Europe and in America more than one million skin tumors are diagnosed every year, of which 1 in 100 are malignant (cancerous) melanomas. Although melanomas are 100% curable when detected in time, many patients, even those young in age, die from this form of skin cancer due to a severe lack of information, timely detection and preventative care. Melanomas can arise from existing moles or develop on previously healthy skin. So, thorough periodic monitoring of your skin is essential. The most significant risk factor is excessive exposure to UV light. Therefore, intensive sunbathing should be avoided, especially when the sun is at its strongest (between 11am and 3pm), as well as the use of sunlamps and sunbeds.To reduce risks of skin cancer it is also advisable to use a high-factor sunscreen as well as covering up with clothes, a hat and sunglasses. After all, the best cure is prevention!
Advantages of Mole Mapping:
Your dermatologist can detect even the slightest changes in mole structure
You can see the mole comparison yourself on screen.
Through image storage and mole comparison, digital dermoscopy provides the best prevention for skin cancer, especially for patients with multiple moles.
Long-term observation through continuous skin checks helps to avoid the unnecessary removal (excision) of moles.
The A-B-C-D-E of Moles
The ABCDE rule helps you to recognize suspicious moles. Moles that display at least one of the characteristics below should be examined by your dermatologist. Remember that any alteration is an alarm signal as changes to a mole may be an early indication of melanoma.
B Border irregularity (blurred or jagged edges)
C Colour variation
D Diameter over 5 mm
E Elevated (especially when raised unevenly) & Evolving (changing over time)
Other equally important signs to look out for are:
Decrease or increase in size/ thickness
Changes in the surrounding skin (e.g. redness, white spots, swelling)
Itchiness, inflammation, sores, odd sensation
Bleeding or oozing moles
Newly appeared moles (especially for patients over 25 years old).
High Risk Groups
If any of the following questions apply to you, it’s highly recommended to have your skin checked by your dermatologist.
Do you have sensitive light skin?
Do you have multiple moles (more than 50)?
Is there a history of skin cancer in your family?
Do you have melanoma in your own medical history?
Do you have congenital moles (birthmarks) larger than 1.5 cm in diameter)?
Do you have conspicuous or recently changed moles?
Did you suffer from severe sunburns during childhood or adolescence?