Skin cancer is becoming more widespread than ever before. There are now more than 65,000 new cases of non-melanoma and 8,000 new cases of malignant melanoma skin cancer each year in the UK. The UK has more deaths from skin cancer than Australia, even though Australia has more cases.
Malignant melanoma is the most serious form of the disease since it can spread to other organs in the body. Melanoma is often pigmented (coloured) and can look like moles, which is why it’s important to seek advice if a mole changes shape and/or colouring. There are 3 types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma , and malignant melanoma.
Early discovery of skin cancer means a very good chance of curing it, whilst late discovery means treatment is usually not able to cure it. About 1,800 people die from skin cancer each year. There are a range of treatments available including surgical removal, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or biological therapy, depending on the type of skin cancer.
Malignant melanoma is more common in women than men, is one of the most common cancers in people aged 20 to 35 and affects people who work indoors more than those who work outside. Non-melanoma skin cancer affects men more than women, as well as older people, particularly those who have spent much time working outdoors. Too much sun exposure and getting sunburnt in childhood and the teenage years can lead to skin cancer in later life, so children in particular must be protected.
Dark skinned people rarely get skin cancer, although they should be careful as well. The people most at risk of skin cancer are those with fair skin, freckles, who burn red in the sun and who spend too much time in the sun without protection. Some inherited skin diseases make those people much more likely to get skin cancer.
In order to tell whether a suspicious skin condition is skin cancer or not you’ll probably require a biopsy. If cancerous, it’ll be removed by surgery or radiotherapy, depending on its size and type.
UVB is known to cause sunburn and skin cancer, so sun creams were originally designed to block out only the UVB. We now know that UVA can also cause skin cancer and, these days, some sun creams block out a lot of UVA as well as UVB.
However, the main concern is that, because sun creams prevent burning, they make people think they can spend much longer in the sun, which will definitely increase their risk of getting skin cancer.