The Skin Clinic was one of the first clinics in the UK to introduce mole screening using computer-aided dermoscopy, an "intelligent" camera linked to a database of over 40,000 reference moles, which can photograph, analyse, score and save images of your moles. This technology means that abnormal moles can be detected quickly and any changes can be monitored. Computer-aided dermoscopy aids our clinicians in their analysis and is a useful tool for following-up visits when a mole is checked for possible changes.
Many moles can be in areas you cannot see yourself such as your back. At the Skin Clinic we can check a single mole, or you may prefer a full mole screen for complete peace of mind.
If you are worried about a particular mole you can of course ask your GP to check it, and some hospitals run special mole clinics, but at the moment there is no general screening programme in the UK for malignant melanoma.
How does dermoscopy work?
A dermascope is used to examine moles through a thin layer of liquid, and the result is a highly accurate assessment of what is going on immediately below the skin’s surface, far better than can be achieved by the naked eye or even using a powerful magnifying glass.
It takes our computer-aided dermoscopy seconds to calculate its own version of an ABCD score (the traditional method used by doctors, dermatologists and our clinicians) for each mole, although the dermascope’s analysis is based on ten times the number of parameters than the four-point ABCD method, making it much more reliable. With a little further input from our clinicians, an accurate screening can be carried out.
A risk score is provided for each mole examined. The maximum score is 10, and the higher the score, the more abnormal the mole.
Many moles which are apparently borderline within the normal screening method may, using the dermascope, be safely classified as benign, therefore reducing the number of unnecessary excisions and associated scarring. Furthermore, borderline cases can be screened again within a few weeks, leading to a further reduction in excisions, and less chance of missing a melanoma.
Although dermoscopy is statistically very accurate, like all medical screening systems, it will very occasionally be wrong.
It is possible (but unlikely) that it will show a malignant melanoma when there is none present, or fail to identify a malignant melanoma which is present.
The only known method of confirming the existence of malignant melanoma is by excision and histology (meaning laboratory analysis, the crucial step that differentiates "screening" from "diagnosis"). Malignant melanomas can develop at any time and the results of any one mole screening visit cannot be used to contradict previous results.
Dermoscopy scores only apply to possible melanomas and do not address the other less dangerous forms of skin cancer.
However, a visual inspection at the Skin Clinic and images taken with a dermascope can also be the first step in identifying more common conditions.
During your mole screening visit we go through a questionnaire with you to see if you are at a higher risk, assessing variables such as your age, family history, skin type, whether you have been badly sunburned at some stage (especially when young) and how many moles you have. If you are at a higher risk, we suggest you are screened annually.
If we find an abnormal or potentially dangerous mole, we can send your results to your GP, or if you would prefer, we can refer you to an independent dermatologist. We recommend that any borderline cases should be re-examined within three to six months.
By comparing two images taken at different times, and stored electronically, the dermascope can screen for small changes which would not be apparent without this technology.
Mole screening is a non-invasive and completely safe procedure.
Who will carry out my screening?
Your mole screening will be carried out by one of our specially trained clinicians. If appropriate, your results will be referred to our medical director, a practising GP. He can then refer you to a dermatologist, if appropriate.
How will information be stored?
We will create a confidential personal electronic file for you. This will include any personal details you give us and the digital images from your screening. Your file will be retained for five years after your most recent visit, so that if you return within that time for regular screening, the dermascope can check for any changes.
Can I be screened if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
Yes. In fact, some researchers believe that it is useful to be screened during pregnancy as your pigmentation is particularly susceptible to change at this time.
Should I be worried if my child also has moles?
Malignant melanoma is very rare in children, but not unheard of. We only recommend screening children if there is a strong family history of melanoma, or if you are worried about a new or changing mole. However, high incidences of sunburn increase the risk of skin cancer in later life, so careful, high factor broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) sun protection, minimum SPF 30, is recommended at all times for all ages.
Can I visit the Skin Clinic under the NHS?
No. The Skin Clinic is a private company and charges for mole screening services.
Do I need to be referred to the Skin Clinic by my GP?
No. The Skin Clinic may be recommended by your GP, or you can also contact us directly.