A novelist writes about the mind, body and soul.

One mole, two moles, three moles, four….

My beloved grandmother died of breast cancer when I was twelve. I still miss her thirty years on. A couple of years ago, my mother was diagnosed with skin cancer on her face and eyelids – probably caused by spending too much time sunbathing with oil when she was a  teenager – luckily it was non-melanoma skin cancer. Skin cancer is apparently the most common cancer in the UK, with 100,000 cases annually and often appears as a change in a mole or a patch of normal skin. If you notice one of your moles have changed you should have it checked out. As we all know by now, the main cause of skin cancer is too much ultra violet radiation from the sun or sunbeds. People with fair skin or lots of moles or freckles or a family history of skin cancer are most at risk and the most common sites for a melanoma are on the legs for women, the back in men and the face in older people.

I have probably sunbathed too much in my life, and I’ve had quite a few moles since childhood, so I decided to have them checked out at The Mole Clinic, in Argyll Street in London. Although this is their flagship site, they also do checks at certain Superdrugs around the country. The test took about twenty minutes in my case, and costs £115 and the nurse was friendly and knowledgeable. They recommend that everyone self-examines their moles and freckles every three months. I have two large flat brown mole-type marks on my back apparently, which are not dangerous and at this stage the nurse said they could be exfoliated away. I also have a mole on my ear, which I knew nothing about and others under my arms, on my thigh etc.

The test involves a nurse examining every part of your body and placing what looks like a magnifying glass over each mole. After the test was completed, I was thrilled to learn that none of my moles are a cause for concern, but that I am at above average risk to get melanoma, as I am in my late forties and the average age for women to be diagnosed is when they are 50. Of course you could always go to the doctor to get your mole checked out, but they would have to refer you to a dermatologist and apparently this can take a while, unless it looks like an emergency. The Mole Clinic can give you a thorough and quick and reassuring test in a less than half an hour.


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