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How to Predict Your Risk of Skin Cancer
If you have 11 or more moles on your right arm, it could indicate a higher risk of developing melanoma, the most serious and sometimes deadly form of skin cancer, according to British researchers from King's College London. This is a quick way for both patients and physicians to more easily identify those who are at the highest risk of melanoma. Detecting the disease early allows for the greatest chance of recovery.

Find out if just one bad sunburn in your life could lead to deadly melanoma.

"The findings could have a significant impact for primary care, allowing [primary care doctors] to more accurately estimate the total number of moles in a patient extremely quickly via an easily accessible body part. This would mean that more patients at risk of melanoma can be identified and monitored," study lead author Simone Ribero, of the department of twin research and genetic epidemiology, said in a college news release.

Between 20 percent and 40 percent of melanomas develop from pre-existing moles. The risk is thought to increase slightly with each additional mole on the body, but a total body count can be time-consuming in a doctor's office.

The study: The team analyzed data from nearly 3,700 white twins in the United Kingdom, all of whom underwent a mole count on 17 body areas.

The results:

  • The mole count on the right arm was the most predictive of the total number of moles on a person's entire body.

  • Women with more than seven moles on their right arm had a ninefold increased risk of having more than 50 moles on their body.

  • Those with more than 11 moles on their right arm were more likely to have more than 100 moles on their body, putting them at higher risk for melanoma, the researchers said.

  • The area above the right elbow was especially predictive of the total number of moles on a person's body.

  • The number of moles on the legs was also strongly associated with total count, as were moles on men's backs.

Changes in the size, shape or color of a mole may be a warning sign of melanoma.

An important note: The study only found an association between the presence of moles and melanoma risk and did not prove cause and effect.

The study findings were published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Find out how to spot the deadliest type of cancer--melanoma--using a simple "ABCDE" method.

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