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May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a time to highlight the importance of protecting our skin and understanding the signs and symptoms of skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Awareness Month, also known as Melanoma Awareness Month is a yearly event that aims to raise awareness about the dangers of too much exposure to the sun and how to protect your skin. UV rays from the sun are one of the main causes of skin cancer, so it’s really important to educate people about how to protect themselves when spending time in the sun. Another aim of the event is to teach people how to check their skin for signs of melanoma, and to encourage people to do this regularly. This is important because skin cancer is very treatable when caught early!

Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells. The biggest cause of skin cancer is too much exposure to UV light from the sun or from sunbed use.

How to prevent skin cancer

Sun safety – Staying safe in the sun is the most effective way to protect against skin cancer. Dr Robert Sarkany, Consultant Dermatologist at The Lister Hospital, explains how to stay safe whilst enjoying the sunshine.

There are two main types of skin cancer:

  1. melanoma
  2. non-melanoma.

Non-melanoma skin cancers develop slowly in the upper layers of the skin and are not connected to moles. They are more common than melanoma but are not as likely to spread to other parts of the body. Most non-melanoma can be effectively treated and cured if detected early. 

The most common type of non-melanoma skin cancer in the UK is Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). BCC grows very slowly and is very unlikely to spread to other parts of the body. Early diagnosis is still important as treatment is more difficult for BCC’s that have been there for a long time and can be more likely to grow back.

The second most common non-melanoma skin cancer in the UK is Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). These cancers grow slowly but are more serious than a BCC because there is a small chance these cancers could spread to another part of the body. 

Non-melanoma skin cancers usually develop on skin that is exposed to the sun, such as the head and neck, but they can sometimes occur on areas of the skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight. 

Their appearance can vary but they normally appear gradually and slowly increase in size. Some of the possible signs to look out for are:

  • A scab or sore that doesn’t heal
  • A crusty or scaly patch of skin that appears red or inflamed
  • A pearly, flesh-coloured lump that doesn’t go away and is growing in size 
  • A scabby lump on the skin that keeps getting bigger 
  • A growth with a pearly rim that surrounds a central crater 

If you notice any changes to your skin, even if they are not included on this list, please make sure you speak to your GP.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops when cells called melanocytes grow more quickly than usual. While it is less common than non-melanoma, it does have the ability to spread deeper into the skin, and to other organs, if it is not treated at an early stage.

Melanoma can develop anywhere on the body but is more common in areas that are exposed to the sun. It can present in many different shapes, sizes and colours but the most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole, a change to an existing mole or freckle or a change in appearance to a normal patch of skin.

• In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and have more than one colour
• The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes bleed or get itchy
• Look out for a mole that gradually changes shape, size or colour

If you notice any changes to your skin, even if they are not included on this list, please make sure you speak to your GP. All of the above details and more can be found on the HCA Healthcare website.

The Skin Cancer Foundation run campaigns every Skin Cancer Awareness month. This includes online campaigns such as ‘#SharetheFacts’ which encourages people to download a pack of images with helpful information, facts and figures about skin cancer and how to detect it. 

Source: HCA Healthcare, Twinkle Skin Cancer Foundation


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