Skin Cancer: What Causes it and Who is at Risk? - Mayo Clinic
Here’s what to know about skin cancer
Our love affair with beach holidays is driving skin cancer rates to an all-time high. Here's everything you need to know about spotting the signs and keeping healthy on the beach
Words by Lizzie Pook
Skin cancer is on the rise (diagnoses for those under 55 have risen by 66 per cent in the last 20 years – and it’s a whopping 222 per cent for those above that age) and melanoma (a type of skin cancer) is now the fifth most common type of cancer in the UK, with around 15,000 people being diagnosed each year. Both my parents have had skin cancer. One of them is still with us; the other isn’t. If those stats don’t scare you, getting sunburnt just once every two years actually triples our chance of developing skin cancer, and even just reddening of the skin is enough to raise the risk. So how can we stay safe in the sun, and spot if there’s a problem?
Key signs of skin cancer
You can get skin cancer anywhere on your body. ‘For men, the most common place is the back; for women, it’s the legs,’ says NHS skin cancer specialist Dr Ross Perry. But you can also get some skin cancers on parts of your body that aren’t even exposed to the sun, such as the palms of your hands, so be vigilant.
‘Every two to three months, give yourself a quick check in the mirror after you shower,’ advises Dr Adam Friedmann, leading consultant dermatologist at The Harley Street Dermatology Clinic. ‘You’ll build up a good impression of what your skin looks like, so you’re able to notice straight away if things start to change.’
The main thing to look out for, he advises, is a mole that’s growing fast and has a different appearance (it doesn’t matter if it’s flat or raised – change is key). ‘When a mole darkens, alters in size, shape or colour, or becomes more irregular or blurred around the edges, that’s when you need to have it looked at,’ says Dr Friedmann.
It’s not just traditional moles you need to keep an eye on, either. ‘Non-melanoma skin cancers (also known as basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma) can be harder to spot, because they can look like wounds or scaly plaques of psoriasis or eczema,’ says Dr Friedmann. ‘But they’re stubborn. So if something doesn’t heal up within three to four weeks of its own volition, see a doctor. Early skin cancers like these aren’t as dangerous as melanoma, but they can happen to anyone who has spent extensive amounts of time in the sun.
Video: What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?
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