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Skin cancer

Melanoma and non-melanoma cancer

SHORCUTS What to do next FAQ
There are two types of skin cancer, melanoma and non-melanoma. Non-melanoma is much more common than melanoma, developing in the upper layers of the skin, and much less serious than melanoma.

Skin cancer is caused by overexposure to ultraviolet light (such as from the sun or from tanning beds and sunlamps). Non-melanoma is found more frequently in the elderly, in men, and in people with lighter skin tones, and currently over 100,000 cases of non-melanoma are diagnosed in the UK each year.

Symptoms

The primary symptom of non-melanoma is a lump or patch of discolouration on the skin (a tumour) which progresses slowly over a period of months or years. The lumps are red and firm, sometimes ulcerating; the patches are scaly and flat.

They are more likely to appear on the parts of the body that get the most sun, such as face, shoulders, upper chest and back, ears, and hands.

With treatment, 90% of non-melanoma cases are cured, and non-melanoma carries less risk of spreading throughout the body, as compared with other cancers, although it can reoccur, even after successful treatment.

Treatments

Treatment usually involves surgery to remove the tumour and surrounding cells. Other treatments are:

  • Cryotherapy, in which the cancer is frozen,
  • Chemotherapy creams.
  • Radiotherapy.
  • Photodynamic therapy.

The best form of treatment depends on the size, location, and type of non-melanoma. There are four types of non-melanoma skin cancer.

The most common are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, but Bowen’s disease and actinic keratoses also fall under this category.

Melanoma

The sign of a melanoma is usually a change to the shape, colour, size or elevation of an existing mole, or the appearance of a new mole. They tend to be multi-coloured and have an irregular shape.

What to do next

Skin cancers can be highly aggressive once they take hold. If you notice any changes to existing moles or new moles, please come and talk to one of our specialists, who can help you rule out cancer or decide on the most effective form of treatment.

Call us to make an appointment.

FAQ

Can I get skin cancer on parts of my body that have not been sunburned?

Yes. Skin cancers do usually appear on skin that has had chronic sun exposure (such as the head, neck, arms, and chest), but you can get skin cancer anywhere, even in areas that have not been sunburned or seen much sun exposure.

How can I protect myself from developing skin cancer?

If you have already had a lot of sun exposure in your life, it is not possible to reverse existing damage, but you can prevent further damage by minimising sun exposure during the daytime, using a suncreen of SPF 30 or higher on skin and lips, covering your skin when you are out in the sun with long sleeves and hats, and avoiding using tanning beds.

Will my skin cancer come back after I have it removed?

Studies suggest that having one skin cancer develop means an increased risk of developing further skin cancers. If you do discover a skin cancer, you will need to be attentive to your skin and have regular check-ups with your dermatologist to catch any new developments as early as possible.

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Please note that Walk In Clinic is a private medical centre and not an NHS service.