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Skin cancer symptoms: What does skin cancer look like?

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Skin cancer
We're all aware of staying out of the sun and slathering on the SPF to protect our skin - but would you know how to check your existing moles for changes if you suspected that you were at risk?

Types of skin cancer

Basal Cell Carcinoma (or BCC) is a type of non melanoma skin cancer. Non melanoma skin cancer refers to a group of cancers that slowly develop in the upper layers of the skin. This is a more common kind of skin cancer, and usually appears as a lump or patch on the skin that doesn't heal after a few weeks. BCC usually appears as a small, shiny pink or pearly-white lump with a translucent or waxy appearance. It can also look like a red, scaly patch.

Melanoma skin cancer, on the other hand, is less common than non melanoma. It can spread to other organs in the body, and can develop from abnormal moles and - the most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole.

Signs of skin cancer

About 72,100 people are diagnosed with non melanoma skin cancer every year.

According to Cancer Research UK, these are the symptoms you need to look out for:

  • A spot or sore that doesn't heal within four weeks

  • A spot or sore that itches, hurts, is scabbed or crusty, or bleeds for more than four weeks

  • Areas where the skin has broken down and doesn't heal within four weeks, and you can't think of a reason for this change

  • A lump, that might be small, slow growing, shiny and pink or red/li>


Skin cancer symptoms

About 14,500 people are diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer here each year.

The risk steadily rising with age, it's more important than ever to know how to check your moles and spot the symptoms of skin cancer.

Moles can be pretty odd-looking things, and it isn't always easy to spot a cancerous mole. Did you know that the more moles you have, the higher your risk of melanoma? Or that people who have lots of unusually shaped or large moles have a higher risk of melanoma than the general population?

What are moles?

A mole is a collection of 'pigment' cells under the skin. Pigment cells are what give our skin its colour, which is why a collection of them will appear darker.

Most moles develop after birth and throughout our childhood and 20s. They can appear for no reason or after being out in the sun.

Why can moles be dangerous?
There is a risk that a mole may become melanoma, which is a form of skin cancer. Survival rates for people with melanoma are relatively high with 80% of men and 90% of women being alive five years after diagnoses at stage two.

But it's really important melanoma is caught early and the lump removed - this will usually be done under a local anaesthetic by your doctor.


Getting a painful sunburn just once every two years can triple the risk of melanoma, so always wear sunscreen

How do I keep my moles safe?

Stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm and make sure you never burn. If you have to go out when it's very sunny, wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and cover up with loose clothes and a hat.

Most importantly, go to your doctor if you have any moles or lumps on the skin you are concerned about.

How do I spot a cancerous mole?

The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole. This can happen anywhere on the body, but the back, legs, arms and face are most commonly affected.

They may also be larger than normal moles and can sometimes be itchy or bleed.

We've teamed up with Cancer Research UK to bring you a guide to help protect you against skin cancer, and how to check for the early signs of melanoma.

If you have any moles which itch, bleed or hurt or any new lumps or sores on your skin which won't heal, go and see your doctor.

You should regularly check your moles and keep an eye on any of them that appear to be changing shape or size. Specifically, you should be looking for any of your moles that fall into the following four categories.

Here's our A-D guide to melanomas with a picture of what to look out for. They may not make for pretty viewing, but it's really important you know what you're looking for...

A: Asymmetry

The shape of a melanoma is often uneven and asymmetrical, unlike a mole that is usually round and even.

B: Border

The border or edges of a melanoma are often ragged, notched or blurred. A mole has a smooth well-defined edge.

C: Colour

The colour (pigmentation) of a melanoma is often not uniform. So there may be 2-3 shades of brown or black. A mole usually has one uniform colour.

Continued below...


D: Diameter

The size of a melanoma is usually larger than a normal mole, and it continues to grow.

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Z Elia

This article is a little confused as it tells the story about Hugh Jackman having Basal Sell Carcinomas and then reports on how to spot Melanomas. Basal Cell Carcinomas are less serious than Melanoma but still need to be treated. Many people still think that the only thing they need to look out for is an unusual mole. In fact, BBCs can appear in other ways. I would urge you to amend this article and not confuse the two. I should know, I've had three BCCs.

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