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Arm mole count predicts cancer risk

Researchers say GPs could use the findings to identify at-risk patients

Mark Gould

Monday, 19 October 2015

Having more than 11 moles on one arm indicates a higher-than-average risk of skin cancer or melanoma, research suggests.

Scientists from King's College London found that counting moles on the right arm was found to be a good indicator of total moles on the body. More than 100 indicates five times the normal risk.

The study,* published in the British Journal of Dermatology, used data from 3,000 twins in the UK.

GPs could use the findings to identify those most at risk, it said.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer affecting more than 13,000 people in the UK each year.

It develops from abnormal moles, so the risk of being diagnosed with a melanoma is linked to the number of moles a patient has.

Researchers studied a large group of female twins over a period of eight years, collecting information on skin type, freckles and moles on their bodies.

After repeating the exercise on a smaller group of around 400 men and women with melanoma, they came up with a quick and easy way to assess the risk of skin cancer.

Lead author Simone Ribero, of the department of twin research and genetic epidemiology at King's, said: "The findings could have a significant impact for primary care, allowing GPs to more accurately estimate the total number of moles in a patient extremely quickly via an easily accessible body part."

And co-author consultant dermatologist Veronique Bataille said if a patient was worried about an abnormal mole and went to see their GP, counting moles on one arm "might ring alarm bells" and highlight those patients who should be seen by a specialist more quickly.


* S. Ribero, D. Zugna, et al. Prediction of high naevus count in a healthy UK population to estimate melanoma risk. British Journal of Dermatology, October 2015. DOI: 10.1111/bjd.14216

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