Tougher standards needed for high street mole clinics

In collaboration with the Press Association

A leading medical journal has called for greater regulation and tougher standards for private high street clinics that scan moles for signs of malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The number of such clinics has risen in recent years as new imaging techniques have become available.

However, the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin - which is a British Medical Journal publication - is concerned that they are not properly regulated and that standards may not be high enough.

- Caroline Cerny, SunSmart campaign manager, Cancer Research UK

In addition, the bulletin notes that some are manned by staff who have not received the necessary training.

This is of concern, particularly as NHS organisations are increasingly being urged to buy in the services of these clinics.

The article is not the first to highlight such issues - the All Party Parliamentary Group on Skin looked into private mole clinics last year and concluded that the techniques employed should not be used as a replacement for a full examination by a skin specialist.

In the latest article, the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin reiterates the MPs' concerns and calls for the introduction of rigorous standards and proper evaluation.

The authors wrote: "In our view, an evidence-based approach and appropriate quality standards are essential in using the new screening techniques for malignant melanoma.

"Independent providers of clinics offering these methods should be required to publish outcome data and be part of clinical governance frameworks linked to specialist dermatology teams," they continued.

"We believe that without such safeguards, [primary care organisations] should not commission such services."

Caroline Cerny, Cancer Research UK's SunSmart campaign manager, commented: "We strongly encourage anyone who notices an unusual change in their skin to visit their GP straight away so an assessment can be made about whether referral to a dermatologist is needed - for free.

"Early detection of skin cancer saves lives, so it's vital that diagnosis and treatment is carried out by fully trained professionals."