Word on Health

Word on Skin Cancer

Our grateful thanks to Marie Tudor from Skcin and Dr Bav Shergill from the British Association of Dermatologists for their contributions to our radio report which you can hear agaiin via the audio player at the bottom of this page.  Our thanks to the NHS for the use of the information on Melanoma and Nonm Melanoma Skiin Cancer.  

Skin Cancer 

  • Over 20,300 cases of melanoma are expected to be diagnosed in the UK this year.
  • Over 230,000 cases of non-melanoma are diagnosed annually in the UK.
  • In the UK 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women will develop a form of skin cancer at least once in their lifetime.
  • Around 1 in 36 men / 1 in 47 women will be diagnosed with melanoma.
  • The majority of cases could be prevented.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can spread to other areas of the body.
  • The main cause of melanoma is ultraviolet light, which comes from the sun and is used in sunbeds.
  • Things that increase your chances of getting melanoma include your age and having pale skin, a large number of moles and a family history of skin cancer.
  • How melanoma is treated depends on where it is, if it has spread to other areas of your body and your general health.  Surgery is the main treatment.
A new mole or a change in an existing mole may be signs of melanoma. Melanomas can appear anywhere on your body, but they're more common in areas that are often exposed to the sun.
Some rarer types can affect the eyes, soles of the feet, palms of the hands or genitals.
Check your skin for any unusual changes. Use a mirror or ask a partner or friend to check any areas you cannot see.
Mole with an uneven shape or edges - Normal moles are usually round with smooth edges.
Melanomas are often an uneven shape. They may have 2 different shaped halves and uneven edges.
Mole with a mix of colours - Normal moles are usually only 1 colour.
Melanomas are often a mix of 2 or more colours.
Large mole - Normal moles are usually small.
Melanomas tend to be bigger, often more than 6mm wide.
Mole that changes over time - Normal moles usually do not change over time.
A mole that changes size, shape or colour may be a melanoma.
Other signs to look out for include moles that are:
  • swollen and sore
  • bleeding
  • itchy
  • crusty
See a GP if:
  • you have a mole that's changed size, shape or colour
  • you have a mole that's painful or itchy
  • you have a mole that's inflamed, bleeding or crusty
  • you have a new or unusual mark on your skin that has not gone away after a few weeks
  • you have a dark area under a nail that has not been caused by an injury
Finding a melanoma as early as possible can mean it's easier to treat.
Non-melanoma skin cancer is a common type of cancer that starts in the top layer of skin.
  • The main types are basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
  • Non-melanoma skin cancer can often be easily treated.
  • The main cause is ultraviolet light, which comes from the sun and is used in sunbeds.
  • Things that increase your chances of getting non-melanoma skin cancer include your age, having pale skin and having had skin cancer in the past.
The main symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer  is a growth or unusual patch on the skin.
Any part of your skin can be affected, but it's most common in areas exposed to the sun, such as the:
  • head, face and ears
  • neck and shoulders
  • back
  • hands
  • lower legs
The growths or patches can vary in colour, size and texture.
A dark red and black dome-shaped growth with smooth edges. Shown on white skin.
Some cancerous growths are raised and smooth with clear edges.
A raised pink growth with a light brown area in the middle that looks like a scab. Shown on white skin.
Some growths may be bumpier, rough or crusty.
A flat purple mark with uneven edges on a person's forehead. Shown on light brown skin.
Sometimes skin cancer may start as a flat discoloured patch.
A small red patch on the skin. The patch is flat with an irregular outline, and looks dry and scaly. Shown on white skin.
Cancerous patches can be a range of colours, including purple, brown and red.
A black patch on a person's right cheek, underneath their eye. Shown on dark brown skin.
The patches may be darker on brown or black skin.
A dry, crusty patch on white skin. The patch is yellow and brown, has an irregular border and looks like a scab.
Sometimes the patches may look crusty and feel rough or itchy.
See a GP if:
you have a growth on your skin that's getting bigger or has changed colour or texture
you have a growth or area of skin that hurts, itches, bleeds, crusts or scabs for more than 4 weeks
Finding non-melanoma skin cancer early can mean it's easier to treat.

Over 80% of skin cancers are caused by overexposure to UV radiation. This includes UV rays from the sun, but also from sunbeds and tanning lamps. UV radiation damages DNA in your skin cells, which can accumulate over time and increase the risk of genetic mutations that cause skin cancer.

What Is UV? Ultraviolet Radiation (UV) consists of the short, invisible rays from the sun that reach the earth's surface. The sun's rays contain three bands of UV: UVA, UVB and UVC. (UVC rays are absorbed by the upper atmosphere and do not reach the earth's surface - it's UVA & UVB we need to ensure we are protected against).

If the most deadly form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, is caught in its early stages the majority of cases can be cured. However if it is not found until later, when it has spread, it is much more difficult to treat and the survival rate after 5 years is less than 5%."

  • SAFE Checklist
    Whether you are in the UK or abroad, protect your skin by:
  • Covering up in the sun and staying in the shade when the sun is at its strongest, between 11am and 3pm avoiding long periods of exposure to the sun
  • Wear factor 30+ sunscreen
  • Take extra care with children and if you have fair skin
  • Regularly check your skin new sores and lumps that do not heal after a month
  • Spots or sores that bleed, itch, develop a crust or hurt
  • Unexplained skin ulcers
  • New or existing moles which appear to be growing or changing shape
  • New or existing moles which are a range of shades of brown and black
  • New or existing moles which are larger than 6mm in diameter
  • New or existing moles which have jagged edges

Visit your GP immediately if you notice any unusual changes to your skin or moles

Our eyes & the sun: Prolonged or improper exposure to sun rays can cause damage to the eyes, as well as damage to the skin.

UVB radiation threatens the outside portions of the eye: the cornea, conjunctiva and crystalline lens, causing irritation, dryness, inflammation (keratitis) and precocious ageing (photo-ageing). UVA radiation is the most harmful to both the skin and eyes because the rays are shorter and able to penetrate furthest into the eye, damaging the retina.

The use of protective sunglasses that can screen UV rays should begin during childhood. By minimizing the exposure to solar radiation, it is possible to prevent the damage to ocular tissues and delay the development of ultraviolet-related eye diseases.

Choosing The Right Sunglasses?  First of all check that the sunglasses carry the CE mark.  The best sunglasses providing optimum protection are ‘wrap arounds’. You want a lens that is dark enough to protect against glare and be comfortable in bright light, yet not so dark that it compromises your vision in low-level light situations.

Listen to this weeks radio report

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.