If you suspect that you or your relative might have skin cancer or in doubt please see the doctor at the earliest opportunity.
There are several different types of skin cancers, some more serious than others. They should be picked up promptly and referred on for specialist assessment.
There are skin cancers such as melanoma which can spread and has high mortality if not diagnosed and treated promptly. While other growths such as Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC for short and also referred to as 'rodent ulcer') are usually benign.
However, it is important not to diagnose these conditions yourself as sometimes many moles or lesions look similar and it is difficult to make a diagnosis just by looking at them. The doctor takes a thorough history and examines a mole before deciding if there is likelihood of any sinister problem.
Skin cancer can present in different ways, for example; an existing mole which has recently enlarged or changed in some way, or a slowly growing lump on the skin.
If you have a pre-existing lesion or mole that was not thought to be cancerous but if it in following way (ABCDE to rember this easily), the you must see a doctor ASAP:
Appearance - If the lesion or mole appears unusual or changes.
Bleeding - if the lesion or mole starts to bleed.
Colour change - if there is change in colour of the lesion or mole.
Diameter - if the lesion or mole is increasing in size.
Elevation - if the lesion or mole appears to be raised.
If there are sinister features/ risk factors (see below) then the GP can refer you to see the skin specialist urgently, usually within 2 weeks of you seeing the GP.
Certain types of skin cancer can be partly genetic in nature. For example; if someone in your family has had melanoma then you may be at a slightly increased risk of this condition. People who have suffered high levels of sun exposure or sunburn in their lifetime will also be at an increased risk of skin cancers.
A lot of people travel to sunny destinations all year around and so there is an increased risk of developing skin cancers if they don't take appropriate precautions.
Modern day sun beds using Ultraviolet (UV) light sometimes pose a risk too if not used correctly or if patients who are at risk are exposed to the UV light for long duration. Please don't forget to mention this to your doctor if you use sub beds.
There are certain ares of the body which are more exposed to sunlight such as face, scalp and limbs. So as highlighted in the section below, please take all reasonable measures to prevent exposure to harmful sunlight.
Once identified, the majority of skin cancers can be removed and often no further treatment is required. Treatment of certain type of aggressive cancers such as melanoma may however require further specialist input and close follow up.
The most important advice in prevention of skin cancers would be to avoid high UV radiation from the sun and sunburn when outdoors, by wearing protective garments and high level SPF sunscreen (factor 50).