May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

There are two main types of skin cancer: melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, and cases of melanoma have increased by 58.3% since 2003-2005.

Non-melanoma is the most common type of cancer in the UK, with around 136,000 cases diagnosed in the UK each year.

However, it is unlikely to spread, very treatable and the earlier it is diagnosed the easier it is to treat.

Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun, which may include long term exposure, or short periods of intense sun exposure and burning. Using sun beds can also increase the risk.


Skin cancers can look very different and the symptoms can vary. Some of the symptoms are similar to other conditions. Speak to your GP if you have or are worried about any symptoms you have  

A spot or sore

You need to have a spot checked if you are concerned about it. This could be because the spot is new, doesn't go away or looks unusual. 

Spots and sores are common. But if you have one that doesn’t heal within 4 weeks, get it checked.

Also, look out for a spot or sore that hurts, is itchy, crusty, scabs over or bleeds for more than 4 weeks.

The colour of the spot could be red or dark, but this isn't always the case. 


Look out for an area of skin that's broken down (an ulcer) and doesn't heal within 4 weeks, and you can't think of a reason for this change. 

A lump

This might be small, slow growing, shiny and pink or red.

Red patches on your skin

These red patches could also be itchy. This could be due to other non cancerous skin conditions. But get it checked to make sure.

Looking for signs of skin cancer

Non melanoma skin cancers tend to develop most often on skin that's exposed to the sun.

To spot skin cancers early, it helps to know how your skin normally looks. That way, you'll notice any changes more easily. To check your back or other areas you can’t see easily, get your partner or a trusted friend to check. This is very important if you are regularly outside in the sun for work or leisure. 

When to see your doctor

See your doctor if you have:

·         a spot or sore that doesn't heal within 4 weeks

·         a spot or sore that hurts, is itchy, crusty, scabs over, or bleeds for more than 4 weeks

·         areas where the skin has broken down (an ulcer) and doesn't heal within 4 weeks, and you can't think of a reason for this change

Your doctor can decide whether you need any tests.


Claire Edwards