Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, with over 400 people being diagnosed every day. There are three main types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma and Squamous cell carcinoma are known as non-melanoma skin cancer and are the most common varieties, however melanoma is the most dangerous.
Melanoma skin cancer, despite being the most deadly form of skin cancer, has an 87% survival rate if diagnosed and treated quickly, making it vital to understand the symptoms of melanoma and seek the treatment required. 86% of melanoma skin cancer cases are preventable and simple steps can be taken to protect your skin.
WHAT IS MELANOMA?
Malignant melanoma is a type of skin cancer which is less common, accounting for approximately 3% of all skin cancer cases in the UK, which equates to around 16,000 new cases a year. Although less common, malignant melanomas are very serious as they can grow quickly and spread to other organs in the body so it is vital they are diagnosed and treated early.
Melanoma develops when skin cells begin to evolve abnormally. It usually starts in a mole, but can occur in normal looking skin and grows when melanocyte cells, the cells that produce brown pigment and moles, grow and divide at a quicker rate than usual.
As with all skin cancers, exposure to ultraviolet light (UV light) is the common cause. You also have an increased risk to developing malignant melanoma if you have lots of moles or freckles. If you have a pale skin type which is prone to burning or have a family history of the disease you are also more at risk.
The appearance of a new mole, or any changes to an existing mole could be an indication of a melanoma. This is why it is so important to regularly check and monitor your moles for any changes and to understand the melanoma risk factors. In most cases, melanomas are more than one colour and are irregular in shape, they can sometimes be itchy and bleed.
There are four main types of malignant melanoma, superficial spreading melanoma, nodular melanoma, lentigo maligna melanoma, acral lentiginous melanoma.
Superficial spreading melanoma
Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common type of melanoma in the UK. They are more common in people with pale skin. Initially, they will grow outwards, rather than downwards into the skin where they will not pose a problem, however they can grow down deep into the skin where they can spread to other parts of the body.
Nodular melanomas grow much quicker into the deeper layers of the skin so it is vital they are spotted and removed quickly. Their appearance is a changing lump on the skin which is dark in colour and they often ooze or bleed. They often grow on normal skin, rather than an existing mole and commonly appear on the neck, head, chest and back.
Lentigo maligna melanoma
Lentigo maligna melanoma develops slowly over many years in areas which are commonly exposed to the sun such as the face and the arms. As they develop slowly, they are often found in older people, particularly those who have spent a lot of time outdoors. They often look like freckles, but are darker and larger so more noticeable. They will gradually grow bigger and can grow downwards to the deeper layers of the skin forming lumps.
Acral lentiginous melanomas are very rare and appear on the hands or the feet, particularly around a nail. They are most common in people with darker skin but can affect anyone.
CAN MELANOMA SKIN CANCER BE TREATED?
Melanoma skin cancer can be treated effectively. The most appropriate treatment for you will depend on where your cancer is, how far it has spread and your general health.
The main treatment for malignant melanoma is surgery to remove the lesion from the skin. If melanoma is diagnosed and treated early enough, surgery is usually successful. Surgical excision works by cutting the cancer away from the skin, ensuring no cancerous cells are left behind. You may need a second surgery to remove a further area of skin so your doctor can be sure they have removed all the melanoma from the area, while leaving as much healthy skin intact as possible. The skin can usually be closed with a few stitches or a skin graft depending the size of the lesion.
Complications can arise if melanoma is not removed as the cells can grow deeper into the layers of the skin. If these cells reach the blood or lymphatic system, they can travel to other parts of the body, meaning it is vital to get your skin assessed by a doctor if you have any concerns before the cancer potentially spreads.
Once you have had a melanoma diagnosis, there is a chance that it may come back and you could be diagnosed with it again. This risk is particularly increased if the cancer was in more advanced melanoma stages. If your doctor thinks there is a significant chance of your melanoma returning you will need regular check ups to monitor your skin for any changes. It is also important that you continue to check for signs of melanoma at home.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY SKIN LESION OR MOLE IS BENIGN?
If following your dermatologist mole check it is deduced that your mole or skin lesion is not malignant melanoma and that the area of skin is not cancerous, it is still important to regularly check your skin for signs of melanoma and protect your skin when out in the sun.
It is a good idea to check your moles at home once a month, especially if you have lots of moles or freckles, have fair hair or skin, use sunbeds or have a family history of skin cancer.
When checking your moles, it is recommended to use both a full length and a handheld mirror so you are able to check your body all over. Stand in a well-lit room and ask a family member or your partner to help you check the hard to reach areas.
Don’t forget to check less obvious places such as your scalp, the soles of your feet and in between your fingers and toes. It is a good idea to take photos of your moles so you can keep track of any changes. If you do notice any changes or are worried by any of your moles, consult a dermatologist who can check them professionally.
Moles can look very different to each other which can make it hard to identify moles which may be worrying, the key thing you are looking for is if your mole is changing. When checking your body for moles, you are looking for any changes to the size, colour of shape. You are also looking for itching, bleeding or crusting of moles which are signs you need to book an appointment to get your moles checked by a consultant dermatologist. When checking for moles, know your ABCDEs and get your moles professional checked if:
A Asymmetry – one half doesn’t match the other half
B Borders – the mole has uneven borders
C Colour – there is a variety of colours in the mole (brown, tan or black)
D Diameter – the mole grows larger than a pencil eraser (¼ inch)
E Evolution – the mole evolves in size, shape, colour, elevation or there is a new characteristic
By checking your moles regularly and becoming familiar with your moles, you will be able to detect any changes in them early and get them seen by a specialist so treatment can begin if required.
If you notice any suspicious changes in a mole, such as the ones outlined above, you should see a consultant dermatologist as soon as possible for professional mole checking. Your dermatologist at Everything Skin Clinic will make a detailed assessment of your worrying mole and either identify it as benign or recommend it to be removed.
Here at Everything Skin Clinic, we believe that there is no substitute to a full body mole check. Our mole check clinic is a consultant dermatologist led service and is the first in Manchester offering automated total mole mapping.
If you would like any more information about our mole mapping service, or are interested to find out more about mole checks, please give us a call on 0161 509 1294.
MEET OUR EXPERTS
DR VISHAL MADAN
Dr Vishal Madan is the founder and medical director at Everything Skin Clinic. He is a Consultant Dermatologist, Laser and Dermatological Surgeon. Dr Madan specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of all skin conditions. Being the President of the British Medical Laser Association, he is the leading skin expert with extensive experience in the laser treatment of rosacea, facial redness, blemishes, rhinophyma, cysts, birthmarks, acne including acne scarring. He has a special interest in skin cancer treatment, using Mohs Micrographic surgery; a specialized technique which is by far the best method of treating basal cell carcinomas or BCC’s.
WHY CHOOSE EVERYTHING SKIN CLINIC?
At Everything Skin Clinic™, we have a team of highly trained Consultant dermatologists, who have completed specialist training in Dermatology and are on the specialist register of the General Medical Council. All our consultants hold substantive contracts with the best Dermatology centres in leading NHS hospitals. Therefore, you can be certain of the highest quality private care.
We offer a range of treatments and can offer one, or a combination of treatments to achieve the best results. Unlike many other clinics, we can offer diagnosis and treatment all under one roof by expert consultant dermatologist, so you know you’ll be in safe hands.
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Thursday: 9:00am - 7:00pm
Friday: 10:00am - 4:00pm
Alternate Saturdays: 10:00am - 4:00pm
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