Should I get my moles checked?

Q. I am worried about moles and raised brown patches on my body. How often should I have them checked, and who by? A. ‘The rule is that if you have a fair complexion and notice any moles or pigmented spots on your skin, you should go to a specialist every year,’ according to Dr. Marko Lens, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon whose main research interest is skin cancer.

Consult your GP if they specialise in dermatology, or book to see a dermatologist. The key thing is that you should be checked from top to toe. You may be anxious about a mole you can see, but the majority of skin cancers are found in areas you can’t see, mostly on the back and also on the back of the legs.

NHS Choices ( offers a mole risk self-assessment, which includes the five key ‘A to E’ concerns to look for: asymmetry, border irregularity, colour variation, diameter (anything above 6mm should be checked, says Dr Lens) and enlargement, which means the mole grows over time.

Young men are increasingly affected, says Dr. Lens. They are also in a higher risk group because they often do not use sunscreen and seldom check their skin. He suggests that people check their partners and family members for any possible problems, particularly on the back.

Finally Dr. Lens emphasises that, when you are in the sun, sunscreen should be applied every two hours. He recommends using SPF 30, which ‘absorbs 97 per cent of UV light, whereas SPF 50 is one per cent higher. But to achieve SPF 50, you need to load products with chemicals, which also tends to produce a heavy texture, so people are reluctant to apply often enough and in sufficient amounts.’

• Dr. Marko Lens/020- 7631 3212,



This week, Louise Parker, creator of the Beach Body Plan, turns her attention to the risks of a sedentary lifestyle. ‘Don’t sit down! A new campaign called On Your Feet Britain ( says that sitting for long periods at work is linked to a stack of health problems and recommends standing up and walking around the office regularly. You can even hold meetings standing up.

‘I have always made my phone calls while moving around, and we encourage the people in our office to be more active. I can take 3,000 steps a day in the office this way, which isn’t to be scoffed at. Every little helps.’

PS If you missed Weeks 1 and 2 of the Beach Body Plan, you can find them online at For more information, visit



Ecover Washing Up LiquidFollowing my short article on 5 April about dry hands with painful cracks around the nails, several readers wrote in with tips. Linda Ashton’s husband suffered for many years, but the problem cleared when he stopped using products containing the preservative methylisothiazolinone (MI). MI, which is a known potential irritant for a significant number of people, is widely used in household products, including washing-up liquid (the culprit in this case) and toiletries. ‘The soreness flares up occasionally if we forget to check products. We now use Ecover washing-up liquid,’ says Linda. £1.50 for 500ml,


A few weeks ago I had a heartbreaking email from a colleague in Kent. Camilla Gooden’s youngest son Rex (pictured) died unexpectedly during a lunchtime nap. ‘He was a healthy, robust 21-month-old boy full of life and character. His death is so far unexplained,’ she wrote. According to the Lullaby Trust (, almost 1,000 children aged one to 14 died in a single year recently, and many of these deaths remain unexplained. While there is extensive research into cot deaths, Camilla wants to raise awareness that sudden death can happen to healthy toddlers too, so she is raising funds for a research project into Sudden Unexpected Death in Childhood, led by Professor Neil Sebire at Great Ormond Street Hospital. ‘I’m doing this for Rex, my superstar,’ Camilla says. If you would like to contribute, visit