Summer is almost here and many of us will be jetting off to far-flung destinations in an effort to get a bit of sun on our skin.

We know now more than ever though the importance of protecting your skin from the harsh midday rays to prevent skin cancer, with those who have moles and freckles taking extra care.

With Sun Awareness Week – May 9-15 - just around the corner, we spoke to the experts to find out how to tell freckles and moles apart and what to look out for.

[Read more: Skin cancer: How to check your moles, who is at risk and what to look out for]

What is a freckle?

 

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In layman’s terms, a freckle is a type of pigmented lesion.

Dr Ros Perry, Dermatologist at Cosmedics explains: “They are small flat brown marks arising on the face and other sun exposed areas.

“They are most often seen in fair skinned people, especially those with red hair, but they are an inherited characteristic that sometimes affects darker skin types as well.

“The medical term for this type of freckle is ephilis, plural ephilides.”

Dr Jo Gach, Consultant Dermatologist at Spire Parkway Hospital in Solihull continues: “Their intensity and colour varies and depends on the amount of sun exposure. Freckles tend to be more prominent in the summer and fade in the winter.”

[Read more: Freckle tattoos are now a thing (but don't worry, they're semi-permanent)]

What is a mole?

Moles are also pigmented lesions, Dr Gach explains, saying: “A mole, also known as naevus, is a pigmented lesion that can be present on any part of the skin.

“Most of our moles appear in childhood and they changes slightly and gradually as the child is growing up.

“Moles can be flat or raised. Some of them have hair growing out of them.”

Dr Perry continues: “Moles occur when cells in the skin grow in a cluster instead of being spread throughout the skin. These cells are called melanocytes, and they make the pigment that gives skin its natural colour.

“Moles may darken after exposure to the sun, during the teen years, and during pregnancy.”

[Read more: What it’s really like to get a mole scanned: Spotting the early signs of skin cancer]

How do you tell the difference between the freckles and moles?

As a general rule, freckles are lighter in colour and tend to be flat, unlike moles which are usually raised and larger.

You’re also more likely to have lots of freckles in one area of the skin.

What changes should you look out for?

Whether you have freckles or moles, if you’re worried about either, the changes you should be keeping an eye out for are the same.

“Rapid change in size, shape, colour of mole requires a prompt check-up with a doctor,” Dr Gach says.

“Unexplained bleeding  or itch from a mole also needs to be checked.”

“Your doctor can either reassure you it is nothing to worry about or if they feel it may be suspicious then they would refer you to a skin specialist at the hospital to see if it needs removing so it can be tested to see if the cells in the mole are worrying or not,” says Dr Perry.