Boots pharmacy offering a mole-scanning service so you can get worrying markings checked out on the high street (From Your Local Guardian)

Concerned your mole might be cancer? Abi Jackson popped into her local Boots to get hers checked.

Eyebrows, bikini wax, Botox… there’s not much you can’t get done on the high street these days.

And it’s not just pimping and preening – there are numerous health-related checks and consultations you can access on the humble high street, whether that’s popping into a pharmacy to discuss your contraception concerns after picking up your groceries, or stopping off for a chat about diabetes risks while running errands around town.

Boots UK offers a mole-scanning service, so you can literally get any moles or markings you’re unsure about checked while topping up on shower gel and tampons.

This is what happened when we went to try it…

The basics

The service is currently available in 50 Boots pharmacies across the UK. You need to be 18 or over, and can book an appointment online, or just pop in and ask if they can fit you in. It costs £35 for the first mole/lesion you want scanned, £15 for each additional one, and you can get up to four checked in a single consultation (and yep, you can use your Advantage Card).

It’s worth noting there are some moles they won’t check, such as ones on your genitals, or which are covered in hair or bleeding (full details are on the Boots website).

What a consultation entails

Consultations take place in a private room (so don’t worry – other shoppers can’t see or hear anything going on), with a member of the Boots Healthcare team. They’re not dermatologists or skin cancer specialists – so they won’t be able to tell you anything about your moles, or suggest which ones might look a bit dodgy or anything like that – but they are specially trained to use the scanning equipment and talk you through the process. I felt totally at ease though the whole thing.

After a brief chat, you’ll be asked to fill out a consent form and questionnaire , with details such as family history of skin cancer and whether you’ve been sunburned in the past.

You’ll need to expose the area of skin where the mole or lesion is, then the consultant will take images with the scanning device – a SIAscope which is placed against the skin and emits light 2mm below the skin’s surface. Each scan produces five different types of images, to give a detailed overview of the depth, shape and colour and what’s going on beneath the surface.

It’s totally painless and very quick.

Your Local Guardian:

What happens next

Boots doesn’t actually assess your moles themselves. The images are sent to dermatologists at ScreenCancerUK, who specialise in using innovative tech for early cancer detection. They will check for signs of cancer and put together a report based on your images. This will be sent to you within one to two weeks. (I got a text to say my mole looked normal.)

If the scan has detected anything to suggest your mole might be malignant, a ScreenCancer nurse will contact you to discuss the next steps. You’d then need to follow-up with your own GP; the Boots service doesn’t refer you for further tests or treatment.

Why would I get my moles checked?

Remember, there was once a time when people thought smoking was good for them, or when nobody talked about things like checking your breasts. Now, thankfully, the importance of looking for lumps, and getting them promptly checked if you find any, is pretty well-established, and campaigners are working hard to get us all to be skin cancer-savvy too.

Rates of the disease have been rising (even with our famously awful weather), with malignant melanoma in particular – the most serious form of the disease – soaring by 119 per cent since the early 90s.

And although around half of malignant melanomas are currently diagnosed in over-65s, data suggests today’s 15-24-year-olds will be more likely than previous generations to develop the disease in their lifetime, and more people than ever are getting serious skin cancer at a younger age.

Unlike more common skin cancers, like basal cell carcinomas, malignant melanoma can spread to other organs, and kills around 2,000 people in the UK each year – but the good news is, the cancer can be cut away if it’s caught early.

Slapping on the SPF is vital, but keeping an eye out for early warning signs, such as a mole that changes shape or starts oozing, or stubborn ulcers and scabby patches that won’t heal, is also a big part of it.

Familiar with the ABCDE rule? Five key things to look out for when checking moles: asymmetry (healthy moles tend to be symmetrical); border (are the edges uneven or irregular?); colour (does it look like it’s not a uniform colour throughout?); diameter (is it bigger than your other moles, or growing?); evolving (is it changing, getting darker, itchy, oozing?).

Of course, you can always go straight to your GP if you’re concerned about any moles or lesions, and ask for a referral to a dermatologist if you are worried. But it’s useful to know that there are services on offer that enable you to get an expert assessment at an early stage.

For more information about the Boots UK Mole Scanning Service, visit

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