Stop what you're doing and look at your right arm.
How many moles can you count?
Counting the number of moles on a person's right arm could show a higher risk for melanoma or skin cancer, according to a new study from researchers at King's College London published in the British Journal of Dermatology. Having more than 11 moles on the right arm is a "strong predictor" of melanoma, according to the study.
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Researchers studied more than 3,500 female twins in the United Kingdom over a period of eight years. They collected information on the number of freckles and moles on 17 different parts of their bodies, as well as their skin type, hair and eye color. The study was later repeated on more than 400 men and women.
They found that of all the body parts studied, the right arm was the best predictor of the total number of moles on the body.
The more moles you have on your body, the higher the risk of melanoma. About 20 to 40 percent of skin cancer is thought to develop from pre-existing moles.
Subjects in the study who had more than 11 moles on their right arms were more likely to have more than 100 moles on their whole bodies. In an earlier study conducted by researchers in Australia, having more than 100 moles on the body was found to increase the risk of melanoma by 11 times.
Lead author Simone Ribero of the department of twin research & genetic epidemiology at King's College said, "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. This would mean that more patients at risk of melanoma can be identified and monitored."
But moles aren't the only risk factor for skin cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK, other risk factors for melanoma include having red or fair hair, fair skin, light-colored eyes or having had a sunburn in the past.
Dr. Claire Knight, health information manager for the group, praised the research but warned that "less than half of melanomas develop from existing moles. So it's important to know what's normal for your skin and to tell your doctor about any change in the size, shape, color or feel of a mole or a normal patch of skin. And don't just look at your arms — melanoma can develop anywhere on the body, and is most common on the trunk in men and the legs in women."