What types of skin cancer are there?
There are two main types of skin cancer: malignant melanoma (cancer in moles) and the non-melanoma group (basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma).
Each year, between 9 to 12 thousand people in the UK will develop a new case of malignant melanoma. It accounts for about 2000 deaths annually.
Sun radiation is a contributing factor in 90 per cent of all cases of skin cancer.
People who are exposed to large quantities of sun radiation can develop skin cancer as early as 20 to 30 years of age, but the disease is much more common in elderly people. However, it is the second most common cancer in the age group 15 to 34.
What is malignant melanoma?
Malignant melanoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in the skin’s ‘pigmentation system’, ie the skin layer that becomes tanned in the summer.
Melanomas usually start in moles or in areas of normal-looking skin. In rare cases the tumour may begin in the eyes, the respiratory passage, the intestine or the brain.
Malignant melanoma is a very dangerous type of cancer, and the patient’s chances of survival often depend on early discovery and treatment.
What causes skin cancer?
Skin cancer is caused by exposure to sunlight, particularly the ultraviolet (UV) rays, and 80 per cent of cases are therefore preventable.
The risk of developing skin cancer is increased following episodes ofsunburn, although the there may be a delay of many years before the cancer appears.
What can be done to prevent skin cancer?
- Avoid excessive exposure to the sun, especially the midday sun (from 11am to 2pm).
- Move into the shadow and have a ‘siesta’ instead.
- Clothing and sun hats can protect the skin from the harmful rays. It’s especially important to cover the skin from 11am to 2pm.
- Children must be protected from sunburn.
- Consult your doctor if you have sores that will not heal or unusual changes in a mole.