Spot Check

Posted on: January 9th, 2013 by Joy Niemack
Mole-check

When you think of moles, Austin Powers and Goldmember may spring to mind. But those dark spots are actually no joking matter.

We’re sounding the alarm bells here: after Australia, South Africa has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world. And, according to the Cancer Association of South Africa’s research, about 20 000 new cases of skin cancer are reported every year in our country. Everyone knows moles can indicate something deeper than sunburn – but not every mole is dangerous. We asked dermatologist Dr Izolda Heydenrych from Cape Town’s Cosmetic Dermatology Centre for tips on how to determine when you need to see a specialist.


  1. What Causes Moles?
  2. When should you check your moles?
  3. What should you check for?
  4. Where do moles appear?

What Causes Moles?

The main causes are sun and genes. You can try to prevent them by avoiding the sun as much as possible and staying away from sunbeds. “But you can’t avoid your gene pool,” says Heydenrych. “If you’re at a higher risk (say, if there is a history of melanoma in your family), ensure you are mole-mapped by a professional.” A mole map is a recording of the location of your moles, as well as what they look like, which is then compared to each new map to see whether any changes have occurred. This aids with early detection, “which is the only potentially curative treatment,” says Heydenrych. What’s more, your prognosis depends on the depth of the melanoma at diagnosis.

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