I’m a 39-year-old woman from Sweden living in the UAE. I have several moles on my body. Unfortunately, my eldest brother died of malignant melanoma, which has me worried. What can I do?

Malignant melanoma is the cause of millions of deaths every year across the world. Despite all preventive health education efforts, the number of melanoma-related deaths are still on the rise. According to World Skin Cancer Foundation, this rise is mainly attributed to a late diagnosis of the disease together with a major lifestyle change in majority of the Caucasian population. In your case, my advice would be that you immediately visit a well-reputed dermatology centre.

[My moles are changing shape and colour]

One of the most established diagnostic tools is mole-mapping technology. If performed by high-quality scanning machines and fully trained technicians who are supervised by a skilled dermatologist, mole mapping has been proven to detect early melanoma much more accurately than a naked eye clinical examination. Mole-mapping can also record several atypical characteristics in structure of the moles, which might be indicative of a pre-cancerous change in a mole (such moles are labelled as severely Dysplastic Nevi). This group of moles also need to be removed as a preventive measure, not allowing them to transform into malignant melanoma.

Total body mapping, which is an in-built part of the latest mole-mapping scanning technologies, allows us to record the number and location of different moles on one’s body. This can be compared on subsequent follow-up mappings for appearance of any new mole on the patient’s body, which can be scanned and included in the previous group of scanned moles. In addition, comparative mole-mappings can suggest the degree of variation and characteristic of previously mapped moles. A significant comparative change with atypical findings is also an indicator for removal of such unstable moles.

Most malignant melanoma diagnosed at stages 1 and 2 are totally curable if treated correctly. Avoid excessive sun exposure, apply SPF30+ sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outdoors, and wear clothing that covers the whole body, made of closely knitted cotton fabric, with a long-brimmed hat.

Dr Ikramullah Al Nasir is a Dubai-based dermatologist. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.