Skin Cancer Awareness: What You Should Look Out For
We all know that as we get older, our bodies begin to change. Here at Chemist Direct, we think it’s important that each of us take charge of our health and understand when these changes are completely normal or when you need to consult your GP.
Surprisingly, surveys have found that 77% of people said that they wouldn’t recognise the signs of a melanoma (a malignant skin cancer tumour). This is despite the fact that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK and nearly three quarters of the people asked admitted to being sunburnt in the past year alone.
With over 100,000 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year, it’s vital that we educate people about what to look out for when checking the health of our skin. If caught early, skin cancer is treatable and being able to spot the early warning signs could make all the difference when it comes to treatment and recovery.
Skin Awareness: The Facts
Before we tell you what symptoms to look out for, here are some skin cancer facts that you should be aware of:
- The two different types of skin cancer are: melanoma and non-melanoma (which includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma).
- Melanoma is considered to be the most dangerous and aggressive form of skin cancer, but it’s also the rarest.
- Non-melanoma cancers are less likely to spread and can usually be treated with simple surgery.
Spotting the Signs and Symptoms
Recent research by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) revealed that 40% of people were found to never check themselves for signs of skin cancer, despite the serious risks caused by sunburn and overexposure to UV light.
Early detection of a potential skin cancer could literally be a life saver, so you should get to know what you need to look out for. We have outlined a few things that you should check if you notice any unusual changes in your skin.
Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are usually painless and grow slowly. They can show up anywhere, but most likely on exposed skin, such as your face and neck.
Squamous cells usually develop in areas that have experienced sun exposure or damage – usually the face, neck, arms and lower legs. This is why you need to be on top form with your sun awareness and make sure your skin is protected from its harmful UV rays.
Arrange to see your GP if you discover a lump or a discoloured patch of skin that doesn’t heal after four weeks and has the following characteristics:
- Smooth and pearly
- Looks waxy
- Appears as a firm, red lump
- Getting bigger or swelling
- Includes lots of different colours or shades
- Develops a crust or scab
- Begins to heal but never completely heals
- Is strangely shaped (i.e. not round)
- Develops into an ulcer
- Makes the skin raised in the area of the cancer
- Feels tender to touch
- Has a hard and pointy scab
- Is an open sore that bleeds or becomes crusty
Normal moles are normally under 6mm in size, they are round or oval, with a smooth edge. If you see any changes in size, shape or colour of your existing moles, or if they become itchy or painful, you should consult a doctor for their professional opinion immediately. This, along with new moles, is often the first sign of a melanoma so it’s best to monitor these carefully.
We understand that there’s a lot of information to take in when it comes to skin awareness, so we’d recommend following the NHS checklist to help you distinguish between a normal mole and a melanoma. It’s as easy as ABCDE:
- Asymmetrical – melanomas have an irregular shape
- Border – melanomas have a ragged border
- Colours – melanomas will often be a mix of colours
- Diameter – melanomas are larger than 6mm in diameter
- Enlargement/elevation – moles that continue growing over time are more likely to be a melanoma
This ABCDE checklist is a useful guide to helping you remember what you need to look out for when checking that your moles are healthy and for spotting any changes quickly.
Looking After Your Skin
We have created a series of images which might help you to notice some of the common skin cancer symptoms:
If you notice any unusual changes to your skin, such as a discoloured patch that doesn’t heal after a month, or a mole that seems to be growing, don’t just ignore it – tell your doctor. The chances are that it won’t be anything serious, but it’s best to be safe and get it checked out.
Remember, the earlier that you detect something that could potentially develop into skin cancer, the more likely your doctors will be able to treat it. In the meantime, don’t forget to look after your skin and do everything you can to protect it against the sun’s harmful rays. The parts that are often exposed during the day are the most vulnerable, such as your face, scalp, neck and arms, so follow the NHS’s sun awareness tips to keep your skin safe.