What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is a cancer of the largest organ in the human body- the skin.

There are two types of skin cancer: non-melanoma and melanoma (or malignant melanoma). Non-melanoma is the most common form of skin cancer in the UK.

What is non-melanoma skin cancer?

Non-melanoma skin cancer usually starts when certain types of cells in the top layers of the skin grow abnormally, and grow and divide without stopping. This form of skin cancer is unlikely to spread to other parts of your body.

What is melanoma skin cancer?

Melanoma skin cancer begins when cells called melanocytes grow abnormally. These cells are responsible for our skins tanned appearance by producing the pigment melanin. This type of skin cancer is more likely to spread to other parts of the body and is therefore more dangerous. Thankfully it is also more rare.

Can I prevent skin cancer?

Although you cannot completely eliminate your chances of developing skin cancer, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risks. We recommend the following steps:

  1. Think about the sun like fat or salt, some is essential, but don’t over do it.Although most skin cancer occurs in those over 50 the damaging effects of the sun begin at an early age. Always take steps to protect your skin from burning.
  2. Don’t use UV sun lamps or sun tanning beds. The exposure to ultra violet radiation can cause premature wrinkling in addition to skin cancer.
  3. Reconsider what products you use on your skin. Avoid chemicals where possible and use organic products.
  4. A healthy and balanced diet is very important.
  5. Always be sure to exercise!

Learn more about nutrition and exercise and the importance of Vitamin D.

How will I know if I do have skin cancer?

It is a good idea to regularly check your skin. Get to know your moles, bumps and scars so that you can spot changes. Look out for:

  • Any moles or marks that have a ragged edge, are an unusual colour, have a bumpy or crusty surface, bleed or ooze.
  • Any moles or marks that appear to grow and change shape and/or colour.
  • New spots, ulcers or pimples that have an unusual crusty, scaly or horny surface.

Visit your doctor immediately if you are concerned. If you have any difficulty getting an appointment, let the receptionist know what it is for so that you can be offered an emergency appointment.