Have fun in the sun – stay safe
Please be aware I have included some graphic pictures in the blog as I feel it’s important to know the type of thing to look for, all pictures have been sourced from either Macmillan or cancer research UK
We all love a sunny day, but it’s important to protect yourself and be mindful of how long you’ve been outside.
Too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer. And even in the UK the sun can be strong enough to cause damage to your skin.
Sunburn can easily catch you out, especially if you have fair skin, lots of moles or freckles, red or fair hair, or light coloured eyes. So it’s important to protect yourself when the sun is strong.
Don’t forget slip slap slop
Slip on a long sleeve top
Slap on a hat
Slop on the sunscreen
Melanoma is a cancer that usually starts in the skin, either in a mole or in normal-looking skin. About half of all melanomas start in normal-looking skin. In the UK, melanoma is slightly more common in women than in men. It is one of the most common cancers in people aged 15–34. Although like most cancers, it’s more common in older people.
People with black or brown skin are much less likely than people with white skin to get melanoma. This is because their skin has more natural protection against it.
In women, the most common place to develop melanoma is on the legs. In men, it’s on the chest and the back.
Some risk factors can increase your chances of developing Melanoma they are;
It’s important to be aware of the damage that too much sun exposure can cause, and to take steps to protect yourself. However, experts recommend regular exposure to a small amount of sunshine. This helps our bodies make vitamin D, which keeps our bones and teeth healthy. It also helps our immune system and has some anti-cancer effects.
The amount of exposure you need depends on your hair and skin type, the time of year and which part of the world you live in. It’s important not to stay out in the sun for long enough to let your skin redden or burn. Episodes of severe sunburn that cause the skin to blister, especially during childhood, can increase the risk of melanoma in the future.
Sunbeds use artificial UV rays that damage the DNA in your skin. They may increase the risk of melanoma. The more you use a sunbed or lamp, and the earlier in life you begin using them, the greater your risk.
It’s important not to use sunbeds and to take precautions to protect yourself from too much sun exposure. This is especially important if you’ve had melanoma (or any other type of skin cancer) in the past. It’s also important if you’re at an increased risk of melanoma (see below).
Although exposure to UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds is the main risk factor for developing melanoma, it’s not the only risk factor. Like other cancers, there are many things that may lead to the development of melanoma.
Your skin type
People with fair skin, red or fair hair, blue eyes and freckles are more sensitive to the sun. Because of their skin type, they burn more easily and so are more at risk of getting melanoma. Having naturally dark (brown or black) skin lowers your risk of getting melanoma, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll never get it.
Having lots of moles and unusual moles
People who have a lot of moles (especially over 100) have a higher risk of getting melanoma. So do people with moles that are bigger than average or that have an irregular shape or colour. These moles (sometimes called atypical dysplastic naevi) rarely change into melanoma, but it’s important to check them regularly for changes. Having lots of moles and atypical moles can run in some families.
If you were born with a dark, hairy mole or a birth mark over 20cm (congenital naevi) this also increases your risk of melanoma.
If you have lots of moles or unusual moles, you can be referred to a skin specialist for advice and an assessment of your skin.
Family history of melanoma
This increases your risk, especially if you have two or more close relatives who’ve had melanoma. Only a small number of melanomas are thought to be caused by inherited genes. Some of these genes may also be linked to pancreatic cancer. This helps explain why some families at risk of melanoma are also at increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
People with a very strong family history of melanoma or pancreatic cancer should be referred by their GP to a family cancer clinic.
People with a weakened immune system have an increased risk of melanoma. This could be due to HIV or taking drugs that suppress the immune system (for example, after an organ transplant).
It can be difficult to tell the difference between a melanoma and a normal mole. The following checklist (known as the ABCDE list) helps explain what to look for.
Photographs are from the website of the National Cancer Institute.
A – Asymmetry
Most melanomas are likely to be an irregular shape or asymmetrical (not symmetrical). Ordinary moles are usually symmetrical (both halves look the same).
Photographs showing melanoma symptom A – asymmetry.
The left photograph shows a melanoma with an asymmetrical shape. The right photograph shows a normal mole with no asymmetry.
B – Border
Melanomas are more likely to have a blurred or irregular border with jagged edges. Ordinary moles usually have a well-defined, clear, smooth-edged border.
Photographs showing melanoma symptom B – border.
The left photograph shows a melanoma with an irregular border. The right photograph shows a normal mole with a clear border.
C – Colour
Melanomas tend to be more than one colour. They may have different shades, such as brown mixed with a black, red, pink, white or blue tint. Normal moles tend to be one shade of brown.
Photographs showing melanoma symptom C – colour.
The left photograph shows a melanoma with colour difference. The right photograph shows a normal mole with no colour difference.
D – Diameter (width)
Melanomas are usually more than 6mm wide. Normal moles are not usually bigger than the blunt end of a pencil.
Photographs showing melanoma symptom D – diameter.
The left photograph shows a melanoma with diameter change. The right photograph shows a normal mole with no change in diameter.
E – Evolving (changing)
If you notice any changes to a mole, you should visit your GP. The change in shape can include the area becoming raised or dome-shaped.
When to see a doctor
Visit your doctor straight away if you have:
- any of the ABCDE signs
- any unusual marks on the skin that last for more than a few weeks
- a mole that tingles or itches
- crusting or bleeding of a mole
- Something growing under a nail or a new dark-coloured stripe along part of the nail.
A good time to check your skin is after a bath or shower. Make sure you have plenty of light. Use a full-length mirror and a small hand-held mirror for areas that are hard to see. This will get easier with time as you become more familiar with your skin and what your moles normally look like.
You can ask your partner, a relative or friend to look at your back, neck and parts of your skin that are hard to see. You could also take pictures of your moles so you can see if there are any changes over time. Checking for these signs is very important as melanoma can usually be cured if it’s found at an early stage.
The above information has been researched from Macmillian Cancer Support
And Cancer Research UK the information on this site was last reviewed on March 2014
There are three main types of skin cancer;
Basal Cell carcinoma
Squamous Cell carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma (non-melanoma)
Is the most common in the UK, Basal cell carcinoma is a cancer of the basal cells at the bottom of the epidermis they may be;
- be smooth and pearly
- look waxy
- appear as a firm, red lump
- bleed sometimes
- develop a crust or scab
- begin to heal but never completely heal
- be itchy
- look like a flat, red spot that is scaly and crusty
- develop into a painless ulcer.
Nodular basal cell cancer
Nodular basal cell cancers look see through (translucent) and often you can see their blood vessels. Sometimes they have a sore (ulcerated) area in the centre. Here are some close up pictures.
Pigmented basal cell cancer
Pigmented basal cell cancers have dark areas and can look like warts or sometimes melanoma.
Here is a magnified view.
Morphoeic basal cell carcinoma
Morphoeic is pronounced mor-fee-ic. This type of basal cell skin cancer may look like a sore area on the skin that doesn’t heal. If you have had an area like this for more than 3 weeks, it is important to see your doctor. This type may also look like a scar or a thickened area of skin that very slowly gets bigger.
Most are very slow-growing and almost never spread to other parts of the body. When they are treated at an early stage, they are usually completely cured. However, some are aggressive, and, if left to grow, they may spread into the deeper layers of the skin and sometimes to the bones. This can make treatment difficult.
A small number of BCCs may come back in the same area of skin after treatment. This is known as a local re-occurrence.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (non-melonama)
Squamous cell carcinoma is a cancer of the keratinocyte cells in the outer layer of the skin. It’s the second most common type of skin cancer in the UK.
Squamous cell cancers usually develop in areas that have been damaged by sun exposure. They are mainly found on the face, neck, bald scalps, arms, backs of hands and lower legs.
Squamous cell cancers may:
- look scaly
- have a hard, crusty cap
- make the skin raised in the area of the cancer
- feel tender to touch
- bleed sometimes.
Squamous cell skin cancers
Squamous cell skin cancers can vary in how they look. These are some close up pictures of common types.
They usually occur on areas of skin exposed to sunlight, like the scalp.
They are also common on the ear.
(Pictures are from Cancer Research UK site)
Most people treated for SCC are completely cured with simple treatment. Usually, squamous cell carcinomas are slow-growing and only spread to other parts of the body if they are left untreated for a long time. Occasionally though, they can behave more aggressively and spread at a relatively early stage.
No More Knots are based in Brynamman Wales if you would like to book a treatment please contact us here