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Has The Pandemic Impacted Our Skin And Moles?

    Moles and Melanoma Skin Cancer 

    Skin cancer can be categorised into three main types. Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) and Malignant Melanoma. 

    Malignant melanoma skin cancer is less common then BCC and SCC and accounts for approximately 3% of all skin cancer cases in the UK, which equates to around 16,000 new cases every year. It is very serious as it can grow quickly and spread to other organs in the body if not diagnosed and treated early. Melanoma is a skin cancer that usually starts in a mole or even in normal-looking skin and develops when melanocyte cells, the cells that produce brown pigment and moles, grow and divide at a quicker rate than usual. The appearance of a new mole or any changes to an existing mole could be an indication of melanoma skin cancer. 

    The Pandemic, Skin and Moles 

    The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives and our health in many different ways and the effects of the changes to our lifestyle will be seen for years to come. 

    One of the biggest impacts COVID-19 has had on skin cancer is the number of melanoma diagnoses that may have been missed. Due to lockdown measures and pressures on the healthcare system, many skin check appointments have been postponed or cancelled and those who are worried about a mole may have put off making appointments as to not burden the NHS further or to not expose themselves to the risk of COVID-19 in NHS facilities. 

    A recent survey by Melanoma UK estimates that one-fifth of melanomas have gone undiagnosed during the pandemic. They compared incidence rates with World Health Organisation data and surveyed over 700 dermatologists around the world and found that compared to normal years, 21% of melanomas may have gone undetected and 33% of skin check appointments may have been missed due to the pandemic. This is particularly worrying as 86% of melanoma skin cancer cases are preventable and there is an 87% survival rate if diagnosed and treated quickly. 

    Behaviour change in response to the pandemic 

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, international travel has been heavily restricted, with a huge amount of people missing out on the desired trip abroad to find warmer climates. Tanning salons have also been forced to close in line with lockdown measures, meaning people have been unable to get their fix of artificial tanning. As with all skin cancers, exposure to ultraviolet light (UV light) is the common cause of melanoma and the number of cases of skin cancer is on the rise, despite years of warning against excessive tanning and the dangers of sunbeds. It will be interesting to see if the restrictions put in place have had any impact on the numbers of melanoma skin cancer cases diagnosed over the next couple of years or if people will permanently change their behaviours towards tanning for the better.

    Despite these restrictions which may have protected the skin from the sun, the lockdown has forced people to spend more time in their homes and gardens. With nothing else to do, many of the population on furlough and the warm weather of spring/summer 2020, people were spending hours in their own gardens and on long walks in the midday sun. It is often underestimated how strong the UK sun can be and people tend to not apply sunscreen or take sun protection measures as seriously as they would if they were abroad. It is important to educate the public on the strength of the UK sun and steps they can take to protect their skin all year round. 

    Top tips for protecting the skin from the sun: 

    ● SPF is the most important product in your skincare regime, and it is important to apply it every day on areas exposed to the sun from March to September. 

    ● Choose a waterproof sunscreen with a high level of SPF that protects against UVA and UVB rays. 

    ● Avoid being in direct sunlight when it is at its strongest between 11 am and 3 pm. ● Cover the skin with lightweight clothing when exposed to the sun and wear protective items such as a hat and sunglasses when out in the sun. 

    ● Use a moisturiser daily that has SPF protection. 

    ● Sit in the shade, out of direct sunlight where possible. 

    The importance of checking your skin and moles 

    In a time where life has been far from normal, existing routines such as regularly checking your moles have been disrupted and are easily forgotten about. With fewer people having their moles professionally checked, it is more important than ever to check moles at home and to understand the signs of melanoma skin cancer to be looking out for. 

    As skin cancer is highly preventable and treatable if caught early, it is recommended that you check your moles at home once a month. Check your body all over, using both a full length and hand held mirror so you don’t miss any spots. It is important to check areas that you may not notice a mole such as the soles of the feet, in between the fingers and toes and on the scalp.

     You are looking for moles that have uneven borders, are asymmetrical in shape, contain multiple colours, are larger than the size of a pencil eraser or are changing in their appearance. To track changes to the appearance of moles, take regular photos of your moles so they can be compared over time.

    To help with home mole checks, an easy to remember acronym is often used to help any worrying moles to be identified: 

    A: Asymmetry – moles should be symmetrical and a common sign of melanoma is an asymmetrical mole. 

    B: Border – the borders, or edges, of moles should be even, not scalloped or notched.

    C: Colour – moles should be a single shade of brown and not contain many different colours or shades.

    D: Diameter – a mole should be relatively small, spanning no longer than the size of a pencil eraser (6mm).

    E: Evolution – any evolution or changes to moles in terms of size, shape or colour could be a warning sign of skin cancer and should be looked out for.

    If you are worried about any of your moles, a professional mole check at a mole check clinic can be hugely reassuring as they can help to diagnose melanoma skin cancer early, which is vital for quick treatment and better long term outcomes. A dermatologist mole check is also an opportunity to get professional advice on how to check your moles at home and how to safeguard your skin when out in the sun. Everything Skin Clinic, in Cheadle, Manchester is also able to offer mole mapping, a state-of-the-art mole checking service that uses computer-assisted mole mapping and digital photo dermoscopy to check moles using artificial intelligence and save digital records of your moles to easily compare for any changes. 

    Author Bio 

    Conveniently located in South Manchester, Cheadle village town centre, Everything Skin Clinic is a unique Consultant-led dermatology clinic which offers treatment of all skin conditions under one roof. 

    Our team of highly trained Consultant Dermatologists have completed specialist training in Dermatology and are on the specialist register of the General Medical Council. All our

    consultants hold substantive contracts with the best Dermatology centres in leading NHS hospitals. You can, therefore, be assured of the highest quality private dermatology care. 

    Our private dermatology clinic is unique in that all aspects of dermatology treatments are catered for. From blemishes to eczema or psoriasis, facial redness to mole mapping and mole removal, from excision of melanoma to Mohs Surgery for basal cell carcinoma, any skin, hair or nail disorders are diagnosed and treated at Everything Skin Clinic by our expert 

    consultant dermatologists. 

    In 2020, Everything Skin Clinic joined The Dermatology Partnership. The aim of the partnership is to build the UK’s leading dermatology group, defined by its clinical excellence and focus on leading dermatological care.