11 Moles the Not-So-Magic Number for Melanoma

More than that on the right arm could mean higher risk
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 21, 2015 3:15 PM CDT
11 Moles the Not-So-Magic Number for Melanoma
Something to keep an eye on.   (Shutterstock)

This year will see almost 10,000 deaths in the US from melanoma, with nearly 74,000 new cases diagnosed. But most skin cancers, including melanoma, are curable if caught and treated early, which is why doctors are anxious to ID them ASAP. Researchers at King's College London say they've found a way to simplify counting one of the disease's prime markers—moles on the body—by using a "proxy site" that would allow physicians to more quickly pinpoint individuals who might need follow-up. Instead of going through the laborious process of counting moles on the entire body, doctors can count moles on the right arm, then use that figure to extrapolate to the number of moles on the body overall, per a press release. And there's a specific number that could serve as a warning sign: Find more than 11 moles on that arm, and your risk of melanoma could be higher.

Researchers looked at data from nearly 4,000 female Caucasian twins who were studied between 1995 and 2003. They counted the number of moles on 17 body sites and found women who had at least seven moles on their right arm were nine times more likely to have at least 50 moles all over their body, and that when they had more than 11 moles on their right arm, they were likely to have more than 100 moles—signifying "a drastically increased risk of skin cancer," per Live Science. The scientists then replicated the link between arm mole count and total body mole count using another study that included both males and females. "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," the study's lead author says. Two other proxy sites that may prompt a doctor visit: above the right elbow and the legs. (Downing a few cups of joe may help fend off malignant melanoma.)

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