Mole mapping, also known as total body photography, is a painless, safe, noninvasive approach to help detect melanoma, a dangerous skin cancer. It utilizes photography to record images of the skin surface. These images provide dermatologists with a side-by-side comparison of moles over time, allowing them to better monitor and track changes such as structure, color and size.

Why is detecting skin cancer early important?

Changes can be an early sign of melanoma. Early detection is important because melanoma is very treatable in its early stages. When melanoma is detected and removed before it spreads, the cure rate is over 95 percent. Mole mapping also has the potential to reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies for growths that are benign.

Who should have mole mapping?

Mole mapping may be recommended or people who have a higher risk of melanoma, including those with some of the following:

  • A history of atypical moles called dysplastic nevi, which may have an irregular shape or an uneven color
  • More than 50 moles
  • Fair skin and light-colored eyes
  • A family or personal history of melanoma
  • A history of severe sunburns
  • New or changing moles
  • A weakened immune system due to an organ transplant, cancer, chemotherapy or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

What happens during my first visit to the clinic?

Our skin care team takes up to 20 digital photos of the patient’s entire skin surface. Then the dermatologist looks for any suspicious moles that should be watched over time. Close-up digital dermatoscopic images of these moles are taken and then connected to the total body photos. Photographs are stored in a secure database so they can be reviewed for changes at the next visit, which is usually scheduled for six to 12 months later. 

To prepare for your visit:

  • Perform a self-exam and note any new, changing or unusual spots to show the dermatologist.
  • Keep in mind the ABCDE’s
    • Asymmetry, irregular 
    • Borders, multiple 
    • Colors
    • Diameter greater than ¼ inch
    • Elevation of moles
  • Discontinue use of any self-tanner/spray tans for one to two weeks before your exam. They may alter the color and pattern of your moles.
  • Remove nail polish so the dermatologist can examine the nails on your fingers and toes.
  • Wear your hair down so the dermatologist can take a close look at your scalp.
  • Do not wear makeup to the visit, or use face wash at the clinic to remove makeup before your exam.
  • Feel free to wear moisturizer, which may help normalize the pattern of the moles.
  • Be prepared with questions, such as how to do properly do a skin self-exam.

What happens if a mole looks suspicious?

Your dermatologist may biopsy or remove part or all of the mole and send it to a lab for analysis. If the mole is found to be melanoma, they will contact you to explain the type of melanoma and treatment options.

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To speak to someone directly, please call 1-888-824-0200. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

 

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Dermatology