While many of us are quick to use sun protection in the hot weather, others neglect to take the necessary precautions, and this puts them at a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
As a result of not wearing sun protection, some people may notice their skin changing, specifically mole changes and other marks appearing as a result of the high temperatures. Searching these symptoms online can often be misleading and even dangerous, therefore it is strongly advisable for all patients who have noticed changes in their skin to visit a specialist for a check-up.
Skin cancer can present itself in a few varied forms, the most common being changes to moles, freckles or simply a small patch of skin. People who know their skin will be aware of any sudden changes to their pigmentation or freckles and/or moles, whereas those who don’t may
The symptoms of skin cancer may appear as:
- Spots and sores
- Red skin patches
- Flat, red spots (scaly and crusty)
Other symptoms to look out for include:
- Scabbing of the skin
- Itchy patches
- Heals but then returns
- Occasional bleeding
- Slowly develops into a painless ulcer
If you have experienced any of these symptoms, it’s strongly advised that you visit your nearest GP for a check-up or with a skin cancer specialist. Additionally, if you have noticed any sudden changes to your skin (moles appearing, changing shape, spreading etc) again, it’s advised that you get them checked.
If you’re leaving your skin exposed and unprotected against the sun, you’re at a higher risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancers. The easiest way to spot skin cancer early is to know how your skin usually looks. For example, if you notice a new mole, spot or patch of skin that has suddenly appeared and doesn’t go away or heal within 4 weeks, it’s advised you see your doctor to confirm it’s nothing serious.
The ABCDE Rule
The ABCDE rule helps patients understand and identify any changes to their skin and/or moles.
While it is a good system for identification, it’s important to remember that not all melanomas fall within the ABCDE guidelines.
The ABCDE rule is as follows:
A – asymmetry
B – border irregularity
C – colour variations
D – diameter over ¼ inch (6mm)
E – evolution (or change)
However, what most people don’t know is that melanomas have very different features. It’s important to understand that certain melanomas may have no colour at all, which makes them even harder to spot. Physicians refer to these melanomas as ‘amelanotic’ melanomas. The reason being because they are missing melanin (the dark pigment that usually helps identify moles and melanomas). Although they initially appear colourless during the early stages, they can eventually turn pink, red or even purple.
If you are concerned, or notice a change to your skin or mole, it’s strongly advised that you seek the advice of a dermatologist.
Spotting melanoma can be difficult if you're unsure of what you're supposed to be looking for. However, if you have noticed a difference in your skin, or specifically a mole, then it's important to visit your local GP for a check-up. The other types of melanoma are listed below. If you have reason to believe that your mole displays an appearance matching any of the below, again, be sure to visit your GP.
Melanomas are commonly identified as the appearance of a new mole, or a mole that's changed colour, shape or general appearance. If melanomas are left untreated, they can become a threat to your health as the cancer found inside these melanomas has the potential to spread and damage other organs in your body. This is why it is incredibly important to wear sun protection and also keep track of any changes to your skin. Common areas of the body which often get overlooked are the ears and back as they are difficult to see. Remember to check yourself in a mirror or ask someone you trust to check for you.
Basal Cell Carcinomas
Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCCs) are the most common skin cancer within the UK. Despite a reported 200,000 cases a year, BCCs are rarely lethal. They spread at around 1mm every 3 months, and because of this slow growth rate, they aren’t usually identified until after a year. They can be spotted by persistent bleeding and scabbing of the affected area. This is most noticeable when washing.
The most common form of treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer is surgery. However, this does depend on various factors, age and severity being important considerations.
Treating non-melanoma skin cancer is usually very successful, with 9 out of 10 people making a recovery. Treatment depends on a number of factors, and in most cases, you will have a specialist team overlooking your treatment. Dermatologists, plastic surgeons, chemo and radiotherapists and specialist nurses may be part of this team.
In some cases, non-surgical treatments such as cryotherapy, creams, radiotherapy, electrochemotherapy and photodynamic therapy may be used. Again, this is up to the discretion of your doctor, who will consider your general health, the type of cancer you have and what stage it's at.
While your doctor and your team will advise you on the best course of treatment, it is you who will have the final say. You might also find it helpful to prepare some questions for your doctor and their team. Common questions revolve around the advantages of certain treatments over others, recovery times, and what each treatment involves.
The types of surgery that are available
There are a few surgical options that you may want to consider for your treatment. We have outlined the most common and effective surgical treatments below:
Stay cautious during the Summer
There are many simple and effective ways to prevent skin cancer. Sun-cream is the most obvious safety tip, although many still neglect to use adequate protection. Even on the days that aren't particularly sunny, it's advised that you wear sun protection as you may still be at risk of burning if the UV rays are strong enough – this includes the winter months! Additionally, make sure the sun protection you're using protects against both UVA and UVB radiation.
Know your body - be on the lookout for any changes
We all think we know our bodies very well, but it's easy to miss a mole or a difference to our skin, especially if it's slow to develop. While it is very important to keep on top of any changes to your skin in the summer, it's equally important to monitor your skin throughout the rest of the year. As stated previously, some skin cancers can take time to develop, so if you do notice anything abnormal, it's important to go for a check-up, just to be on the safe side.
This article gives in-depth detail about the signs, symptoms preventions and treatments of skin cancer in the hope to raise awareness and educate people on how to protect themselves. The content has been compiled by a number of skin cancer specialists at The McIndoe Centre.