Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is split into three main types:

  • Basal cell carcinoma – 75 per cent of diagnosed skin cancers are basal cell.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma – 20 per cent of diagnosed skin cancers are squamous cell.
  • Melanoma (malignant) – affecting 7,000 people in the UK a year, this is a rarer skin cancer.

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma tend to be slow growing and can appear on any part of your body, although they mainly form on exposed areas of skin such as the face. Melanomas are different as they grow quickly.

Things to look out for

Symptoms include but are not limited to:

Basal cell tumours:

  • May look like a hard red lump
  • May look waxy, smooth and/or pearly
  • Bleed at times
  • Appear crusty or scabby
  • Feel itchy
  • Become an ulcer (usually painless)
  • Appear as a flat area which is red and can appear crusty and/or scaly
  • May seem as though they are healing but do not

Squamous cell tumours are hard and can be scaly. They are usually sensitive to touch and commonly develop on bald scalps, faces, arms, lower legs and the back of hands.

A checklist (ABCDE) of symptoms has been devised to help look out for melanomas:

A – Asymmetry – healthy moles are symmetrical so both halves look the same. You may notice that a mole becomes asymmetrical, meaning there are differences in the mole.
B – Border – healthy moles have a definite border or edge, however you may notice an irregular and sometimes jagged edge with melanoma.
C – Colour – healthy moles are one shade of brown; melanomas can be various colours or a mixture of colours including brown/red/pink/black/white or even have a blue tint.
D – Diameter – a healthy mole tends to be no more than 6mm wide; melanomas tend to be larger in size; around 7mm plus.
E – Evolving – with melanoma there is likely to be change in the size and shape of the mole, which is why it is important to monitor these changes.

Other symptoms may include:

  • A bleeding mole and/or scabbing/crusting of the surface of the mole
  • Itchiness or tingling sensation of a mole
  • Changes in shape, size or colour of a mole or any other unusual changes
  • A pigmented line in a nail or a growth beneath a nail

It is important to see your doctor as soon as you notice any changes in a mole or area of your skin; the quicker melanoma treatment begins, the more effective it can be. These symptoms can be related to other medical conditions but, due to the nature of skin cancer, it is important you speak to your doctor/consultant if you experience any of these symptoms.