Mole mapping is photography of the entire skin surface so that there is a record of all moles and skin lesions on a given date. Future skin examinations and photographs can be compared against the mole mapping photos to detect skin changes and identify melanomas earlier. Mole mapping adds to the cost of a skin cancer check and people often feel uncomfortable being photographed while they are nearly naked, so it's understandable to ask if molemapping is worth the expense and trouble. The answer isn't always straightforward; for some people regular mole mapping is highly recommended, and for others it doesn't have significant clinical benefits.
The aim of mole mapping is to detect melanomas and other skin cancers earlier, leading to less serious illness and loss of life.
If it detects a melanoma that might not have been discovered otherwise, mole mapping is definitely worth it!
The downsides of mole mapping are:
- it can be expensive
- some people are uncomfortable being photographed while they are nearly naked
- taking, analysing and comparing photographs can take a long time
- in some clinics that specialise in mole mapping photography, there is no doctor available on site to diagnose or treat suspicious skin lesions, and the patient must go elsewhere for further management
To decide if mole mapping is worthwhile, it's important to consider several questions...
Is it likely that mole mapping will detect a melanoma that would have gone undiagnosed otherwise?
A detailed examination by an accredited skin cancer doctor using a dermoscope will detect most melanomas. Mole mapping can add value to the skin examination when:
- the patient is very likely to have a melanoma, and
- there are so many moles that it's impossible to decide which moles are new or changing and therefore potentially could be melanomas.
In this situation, the technology of mole mapping is often effective in identifying early melanomas. Australian melanoma management guidelines recommend the use of regular mole mapping in patients with these risk factors.
Patients at lower risk or with fewer moles probably don't need mole mapping to detect melanomas, but it can be very useful if there are concerns about a possibly new or changing skin lesion. At Spot Check Clinic, we often recommend that you consider mole mapping at your first visit for this reason.
Is mole mapping affordable for me?
Mole mapping takes time and no Medicare benefit is payable, so there's always an out of pocket cost. Total body mole mapping fees in Melbourne can vary widely from as low as $50 up to $400 or more. Fees vary according to how many photos are taken, whether there is any follow-up included, if there is examination and photography of individual moles and how long the procedure takes.
At Spot Check Clinic, we offer complimentary mole mapping photography of the back as part of most full body skin checks.
This is because its very hard for you to know what changes are occurring on your back, and this is often the area with the most moles.
Total body mole mapping photography costs $150 in addition to the base cost of a full body skin check by a doctor.
Theoretically, you might never need to pay for mole mapping photography again. We use the DermEngine/MoleScope system which gives patients free access to all the photos we've taken and the same app for photographing your own body and adding the photos to your records. The app steps you through the process of taking the mole mapping photos. It's quite easy to learn how to take your own photos. All you need is a plain background, good light source without shadows and an assistant willing to take 28 photos of you in various poses! If you are well motivated, this is the most affordable way of having total body mole mapping.
Am I likely to refer to refer to mole mapping photos to see if there are any changes to my skin or moles?
Mole mapping is really only useful if you compare your skin or moles now with what's been photographed previously.
If you have trouble keeping track of your own skin or if you don't examine your own skin regularly, referring to a set of mole mapping photos can e a good way of figuring out what's new and changing on your skin.
Spot Check Clinic provides access to your mole mapping photos via the web and the MoleScope app so you can use your earlier photos as a reference any time.
Will mole mapping have other benefits for me?
Even if mole mapping doesn't detect melanomas or other suspicious changes in the skin, it can provide other benefits:
- Peace of mind if a suspect-looking skin lesion is shown to have been present for a long time without changing
- Avoiding unnecessary excision procedures. Atypical (odd-looking) moles that look the same over a series of mole mapping photos are almost certainly not dangerous and therefore don;t need to be removed.
Is mole mapping worth it?
If you answer "yes" to any of the questions above, mole mapping is worth it for you!