What Does Mole Mapping Mean?

The detection of melanoma can sometimes be challenging even for professionals. There are various methods for the early diagnosis of melanoma, including annual full body skin exams with a healthcare provider and monthly skin self-exams. One of the more advanced methods is mole mapping. Mole mapping is a painless and noninvasive approach to help detect melanoma that uses whole body photography to identify new moles and track changes in existing moles. Not all insurances cover mole mapping, but if yours does, and if your healthcare provider offers mole mapping, it may be a good option for you for early detection.

What Is Mole Mapping?

With a medical camera, your dermatologist takes high-resolution, whole body photographs to document your moles. The images are stored in a digital database. Patients leave with a flash drive containing their photos and use them when they perform self-skin exams to compare their photos to their current skin.

Your follow up exams will include further photographs to assess changes in moles as time progresses. Changes in moles can signal melanoma, so even slight changes are important to note, and mole mapping can help identify such a change.

Who Might Benefit From Mole Mapping?

Mole mapping is particularly useful for people with multiple moles. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you might want to consider mole mapping if it is available to you. Whether or not you have mole mapping done, you should have your moles checked by your healthcare provider annually at a full body exam and you should check them monthly yourself during a self-exam.

  • Do you have multiple moles (more than 50)?
  • Do you have atypical or dysplastic nevi – moles that are large or of unusual color(s) or shapes?
  • Do you have moles on your back, which may be difficult to keep an eye on?
  • Is there a history of melanoma in your family?
  • Have you been diagnosed with melanoma?
  • Do you have any large moles (diameter more than 2 inches)?
  • Have you noticed any changes in your moles?
  • Have you noticed any new mole on your body?
  • Did you have any severe sunburns during childhood or adolescence?
  • Do you have light-colored skin that easily burns?
  • Do you have a weakened immune system due to an organ transplant, cancer, chemotherapy, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)?
  • Have you ever used an indoor tanning bed?

Why Should I Get Mole Mapping Done?

Mole mapping can alert your healthcare provider to a potential melanoma at the earliest possible stage. Melanoma commonly develops in an existing mole or lesion, and if it is not detected and removed early enough, it can spread to other organs in your body, where it is difficult to treat and often deadly.