Skin cancer is a very common type of cancer in the UK, but most skin cancers are more easily curable if they are caught in the earliest stages, before they spread to other parts of the body.
Skin cancer often develops on skin exposed to UV-light. It happens because of an uncontrolled growth of cells in the skin and therefore, a common sign is a change to the skin’s appearance. People with certain skin complexions or family disposition are at increased risk, but due to a culture of sun bathing or UV tanning, many more people are at risk.
The common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. They are more prevalent but not as aggressive as melanoma.
Melanoma is one of the more dangerous types of skin cancer and can be a serious problem if it is not caught in the earliest stages, where it is easiest to treat. It often resembles a common mole, but not always. Melanoma is fifth on the list of common cancers in the UK, when disregarding other types of skin cancer. There are 13,500 new cases of melanoma in the UK every year.
Due to the potential visual signs on the skin, patients are often the first ones to notice a suspicious mole or mark that turns out to be malignant melanoma. So many cancer organisations promote regular self-examinations of the skin as a means of staying aware of any suspicious skin changes.
Looking out for changes
If you want to be more vigilant about any changes in your skin’s appearance, you should both watch your existing atypical moles and keep a lookout for new marks that form on the skin. It is common for children and young adults to form new moles but after the age of 35, it becomes less common. Over 70 percent of melanomas found in adults turned up as a new mark on the skin.
So, remember to also look out for new lesions if you are over 35. If you have a sore that does not heal within a couple of weeks, or something on your skin that keeps itching or bleeding, you should also get it checked out by your physician.
The ABCDE and 'Ugly Duckling'
You should be aware of these ABCDE signs:
● Asymmetry: Asymmetrical moles and marks where one half is different from the other half.
● Border: If the border is uneven or rugged.
● Colour: A moles or mark that changes colour or has multiple colours.
● Diameter: You should pay extra notice to marks larger than 6mm.
● Evolution: Any changes in a mole or mark.
Also be aware of any mole or mark that looks different from the other moles on your skin, also known as an 'Ugly Duckling'.
Examine your skin regularly
Examine your skin for any changes, from head-to-toe, on a regular schedule. This will enable you to familiarise yourself with the appearance of your skin, so you will be better equipped to notice any changes. You may also photograph individual moles or marks you want to keep an eye on, or perhaps take a wide area photo of your back or the back of your legs to watch out for new marks in these hard-to-see areas. This will enable you to compare your photos over time to view if there have been any changes.
Use a Smartphone app
There are different apps in the App Store or Google Play that you can use to help you facilitate your regular skin self-examinations and photograph your skin. One example of an app that has even been accredited by the Skin Health Alliance is Miiskin. It provides a personal photo diary app, which lets you look out for changes to your skin by comparing photos taken at different points in time. It further gives you security and privacy of your photos. The app does charge a monthly fee, but you can save considerably by choosing a yearly plan. It is also possible to access a limited, free version of the app. Importantly; the app does not provide any diagnoses or risk assessments. You should always contact your physician without delay if you have any specific concerns on your skin.
Read more about the signs of skin cancer
If you want to know more about the different signs of skin cancer to look out for, you can go to miiskin.com/skin-cancer-signs-to-be-aware-of.