According to Melanoma New Zealand, approximately 11 people in New Zealand will be diagnosed with skin cancer today. Over the years, New Zealand has earned the unfortunate distinction of having the highest skin cancer rates in the world. The large proportion of fair skinned people with outdoor lifestyles in a particularly sunny environment are the main factors to blame.
But, luckily, if caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable. That’s why early detection is key. Below, we’ll go over what you need to know about mole maps and checking your moles as well as the unique conditions that contribute to skin cancer risk in Auckland.
Know the warning signs
The first step to catching skin cancer early is educating yourself about the warning signs. Most melanoma skin cancer will develop from a new mole or changes in a pre-existing mole. Take inventory of all the moles and blemishes on your skin so you know what’s normal for your body and can spot any changes should they occur. Once you know what’s normal, look out for the following changes and warning signs in your moles:
· A change in size, especially when the mole gets larger
· Edges of the mole become irregular and blotchy
· The color of the mole becomes uneven with many colors and dark spots
· The mole is no longer symmetrical
· The mole is itchy or painful
· The mole bleeds, scabs or becomes crusty
· The mole becomes inflamed
· The mole raises in the center or becomes thicker
If you spot anything suspicious, contact your doctor or dermatologist immediately.
What exactly is a mole map?
Now that you know the basic signs of a troublesome mole, it’s time to go over the technique of mole mapping and how it works to catch skin cancer early.
Mole mapping is a method that creates an overview of the moles on your body. For a lot of people, this means that tens to even hundreds of moles will be tracked and analyzed. A mole map expert or dermatologist will first examine your moles with a magnifying tool that allows them to see any abnormalities in the first layer of skin. Moles are usually then photographed with specialized cameras so that they can be tracked over time for developments and changes.
Suspicious moles, of course, are the priority, but moles that are completely normal will also be taken into account in case they should change or become dangerous over time. Normally, mole mapping will be done every 3 to 6 months to track these changes.
When it comes to mole mapping, a good first step is to assess your own skin type risk. For people with fair skin and a large number of moles, the risk is highest and it’s advised by dermatologists to check moles every 3 months. You can start this process yourself by archiving photos of moles, and then following this up with dermatologist checks.
Skin cancer risk Auckland
The good news is if you live in Auckland you have plenty of options available for getting your moles checked and keeping your skin safe. This is important because people in Auckland have a higher risk for developing skin cancer due to the low ozone levels above this region. Without as much ozone protection, UV rays are stronger and there is a higher chance of being overexposed to the sun’s harmful radiation. This is especially true in the winter months from September to April. Between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, be sure to take extra care to protect yourself from the sun as this is when UV radiation is at its highest.
Besides the low ozone levels, Auckland is also one of the warmest and sunniest areas of New Zealand with an average of 2,060sunshine hours per year. This means, if you are going to be outdoors, it’s essential to take care. With risk levels high and skin cancer incidence on the rise in New Zealand and the world at large, it’s important to stay safe and check your moles earlier rather than later.