Determining your melanoma risk may be as simple as counting the moles on your right arm, according to researchers at King’s College London.
Melanoma is considered the deadliest form of cancer for young adults, with about 74,000 new cases causing about 10,000 deaths per year. Getting your moles checked is the primary line of defense against the deadly disease, especially for people who are already at risk due to a family history or past exposure to the sun or tanning beds. And part of a good mole check is getting an accurate count of the moles on your body, as people with 100 or more moles have 50 times the risk of skin cancer as less-spotted folks, and every mole increases your lifetime melanoma risk by 2 to 4 percent.
Clearly getting to know your moles is important.
But have you ever had a mole check? Have you?! Besides the paper-gowned inconvenience of a regular doctor’s appointment, there’s a whole new level of, ahem, exposure. Because moles can be everywhere — from under your fingernails, to your irises, to between your toes, to your scalp, to your vulva. Yep, you gotta get checked down there, too. Thankfully, doctors have come up with a new test that allows you to get an accurate mole count and keep your clothes on.
Researchers looked at thousands of people, including 3,594 female twins, and found that the right arm is the most representative part of your body when it comes to moles on women. If you have more than seven moles on your arm — particularly between your right elbow and your shoulder — then your risk is elevated. But if you have 11 or more moles, then you are considered high risk.
While this doesn’t eliminate the need for regular skin checks, the doctors say this is a quick, non-invasive way for doctors and patients to accurately assess risk and determine who needs to follow up with a dermatologist. So the next time you’re toweling off after a shower, take a minute and do a quick count of your moles. (Don’t worry about counting freckles!) And if you have more than 11 or if they show any of the ABCDE warning signs — asymmetry, border, color, diameter, evolving — then see a dermatologist pronto.