Mole mapping

With mole mapping our doctor carefully examines and photographs your body to record the location and size of your moles. In future visits, the process is repeated, allowing us to precisely track changes. Our industry leading system provides access to your images, allowing you to monitor any changes.

Who is mole mapping recommended for?

Mole mapping is suggested for people who would like assistance in detecting new or changing spots — which might potentially be skin cancers — on all parts of their body. This includes people:

  • at high risk of melanoma1
  • with many moles or other spots
  • who can't easily ask another person to look for unusual spots or changes in their skin

Some people like to have a baseline record of their skin on a given date, for future comparison when new or changing spots are suspected.

People with many moles should have mole mapping repeated periodically as a way of checking for new or changing spots they might not have otherwise noticed.

What is the difference between mole mapping & other skin cancer examinations

Mole mapping is not the same as a full body skin examination, where a doctor examines and diagnoses your spots but does not necessarily take comprehensive photographs.

You can have mole mapping performed at Spot Check Clinic:

For people with relatively few moles, or with severely sun-damaged skin, mole mapping may not be the most effective way of checking your skin for changes. Your Spot Check doctor can advise how suitable mole mapping is for your skin type.

Mole mapping at Spot Check Clinic

At Spot Check, your mole mapping photographs are examined by a doctor while you are in the clinic. We use DermEngine mole mapping software to analyse differences between sequential photos of body regions, increasing the detection rate of new and changing spots.

Mole mapping software. Image courtesyof MetaOptima
Mole mapping software. Image courtesy of MetaOptima

How long does mole mapping take?

The mole mapping process involves taking a series of 28 photographs of your body. The first time takes about 20 minutes. With follow-up visits, 20 minutes is spent on retaking photo and then approximately 20 minutes comparing both sets of photographs for changes. 

Mole mapping: What to expect

You can have mole mapping as part of a full body skin cancer check-up, or we can perform it as a standalone service, for example if your dermatologist has recommended it.

  • Your doctor will ask you to undress to your underwear and then put on a dressing gown.
     
  • Starting with your head and working systematically from top to bottom, front and back, left and right, the doctor or a nurse will take a series of about 28 photos of your whole body, one section at a time.
Side, front and back views of a human silhouette showing the 28 regions that are photographed during mole mapping
Typical regions that are photographed and recorded with DermEngine software during mole mapping process.

Photographs are taken in these 28 regions.

  • You will need to remove the dressing gown for some of these photos to be taken. You can continue to wear your underwear, although if you have many spots on your back or breasts, you may prefer to remove your bra. Likewise, if there are many spots on your buttocks, you can briefly drop your underwear so they can be photographed.
     
  • In some cases, there might just be one or two areas of your body with many moles that you can't keep track of, for example on your back. In this case, you may just have photos taken of those specific areas of interest.
     
  • Our system can record where on your body your moles are located.
Moles from photograph of human back are mapped on a computer avatar back
Moles from photograph of human back are mapped onto a computer simulation with DermEngine software.
  • At future mole mapping visits, the same series of photographs will be repeated
     
  • Your doctor will compare your photos to see if there are any changes since last time you were photographed. To assist this process, Spot Check uses a digital analytics system which automatically identifies new and changing spots and highlights them. This happens while you are still at Spot Check so you will know as soon as possible if there are any changes of concern.
Software compares photographs of a human back taken at different times and identifies which moles have changed
Dermengine software compares photographs of a human back taken at different times and identifies which moles have changed.
  • Your doctor will closely examine any identified new or changing spots to check for any evidence of skin cancer.
A suspect mole is identified, located and a high resolution dermascope image is taken for future reference
A suspect mole is identified, located and a high resolution dermoscopic image is taken for future reference using DermEngine software.

How does mole mapping assist in melanoma detection?

Most early melanomas usually tend to spread outwards on the surface of the skin before they grow deeper and spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma diagnosed in this early stage (less than 1mm thick at the time of removal) has a survival rate of close to 100 percent.

If you have many moles, it can be hard to keep track of which ones are new or changing — and this is a problem because identifying a changing mole could lead to an early diagnosis of treatable melanoma. Mole mapping can help identify changes in your spots, and can work as an extra way of pinpointing which of your spots or moles might need closer examination or removal.

Benefits of mole mapping

Research studies have shown that mole mapping is associated with early melanoma detection in people at high risk of melanoma. The Cancer Council Australia recommends that mole mapping be considered as a method of recording a baseline and checking for changes in such people.1

Should I consider mole mapping?

Mole mapping is most useful in:

  • People at high risk of melanoma
  • People with many (over 100) moles
  • People with moles that are distinct from the underlying skin

If your skin has few moles, you might be able to identify suspicious changes without undergoing mole mapping.

If your skin has so many freckles, seborrhoeic keratoses or other coloured spots that it's hard to tell them apart, mole mapping might not be so useful for you. It works best if the moles stand out against the background of your skin.

If you are considering mole mapping, it's often best to discuss the benefits with a doctor to decide how useful it will be for you.

How much does mole mapping cost?

See our mole mapping pricing page for details of total body mapping costs and discount eligibility.

Some private health policies cover the cost of mole mapping. Eligibility varies between insurers and policies. We recommend that you check with your insurer for further information. There is no Medicare rebate for total body mapping photography.

How do I prepare for mole mapping?

Mole mapping works best if your skin is clear and the moles are easy to see from a distance. If you are very hairy, you may wish to consider shaving or waxing before your appointment.

The digital mole analytics system detects spots, which includes spots on underwear. We recommend you wear plain, single-colour, non-patterned underwear to increase the accuracy of analysis.

If you are intending to have a general skin check, please refer to the tips on our How to prepare for a full body skin cancer check page.