What Is Mole Mapping? A Beginner’s Guide On Skin Cancer Checks

Dermatologist doing a mole mapping procedure on a patient

In Australia, skin cancers are among the most commons forms of cancer. This can be attributed to our climate, which involves consistent sunlight all-year-round, especially during our hot, humid summers. Adequate sun protection (like sunscreen, sunglasses, shade and hats) are essential when out and about in the Aussie sun. While skin cancers generally form in middle-age and later life, it is crucial that people of all ages (adolescents and young adults included) closely monitor their skin for new marks. This also includes existing ones that change colour.

Thankfully, Australia has some of the best medical minds and processes devoted to skin cancer checks. One of the most common and effective methods is known as “mole mapping”, which is a skin “surveillance” technique designed to identify skin cancers in the early stages and have them removed before they spread and metastasise. If you’re concerned about some marks on your skin, here’s how mole mapping works.

A brief overview

At your first appointment, your skin technician will perform a set of total body photography images. These images are the “baseline” of all the blemishes and marks on your skin. These photos are then used for comparison at subsequent appointments, making it easier for the dermatologist to pinpoint any changes in your freckles’ colour. This is incredibly important because most melanomas form a new skin blemish or freckle, so spotting them as early as possible is crucial.

Using individual microscopic images, your dermatologist will store these images and use them for future diagnosis. Early detection of melanomas that are less than 1mm in depth have a survival rate of 96%. The whole process can take up to an hour; however, it is certainly worth getting it done in the long run, especially for comparative analysis in your middle age. If you have any skin cancers, they’ll begin to form and show in your 40s and later life.

The benefits

There are many benefits to receiving mole mapping treatment during your lifetime. Here are some of the most obvious:

Early skin cancer detection

One of the best advantages is detection. If you are observant of your skin and notice subtle changes in a few freckles, then having existing mole mapping photos available can help expedite detection and diagnosis. For people with a high risk of melanoma (middle-age and older Australians), individuals with many freckles/blemishes and people who have lived “outdoorsy” lifestyles, then mole mapping is a process you should consider.


It’s straightforward and convenient

Mole mapping is also straightforward and convenient. It’s not as if you need to spare an hour every week to have your skin photographed and checked. All you need to do is show up at your appointment, have your skin photographed, and let the technician do the analysis. Given the long-term benefits of the process, it isn’t too much to ask. There have even been innovative developments in AI to help streamline the detection process and make it easier for doctors.


Private insurance can cover the cost

More importantly, if you have private health insurance, then your mole mapping service could be completely covered. Your eligibility will vary based on your chosen policy and your provider. If you are unsure, we recommend that you verify with your insurer for further clarification. A full-body skin check with mole mapping will likely cost more $300; however, private health rebates will see you get a lot of that back. The Medicare rebate is a lot less, ranging from $38 to $61. Follow-up consultations are cheaper and often entirely covered by private health insurance, regardless of whether it’s a single spot or multiple-spot talk.

If you’re concerned about any spots or freckles you have, reach out to your local dermatologist today!