Melanoma skin cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 5% of all new cancer cases. There are around 147,000 new non-melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK every year, that's more than 400 every day.
The human skin is our largest organ. It has up to seven layers and guards the underlying bones, ligaments and internal organs. If your skin is in good health, you probably rarely think of its functions but without them, you wouldn’t be able to survive. It protects the body from harmful effects including ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun and works closely with the immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses. It absorbs Vitamin D from the sun and its elasticity allows growth and change. It contains an extensive network of nerve cells that allow you to feel and react to heat, cold pain, injury or even the gentlest touch.
Anything that interferes with skin function or causes change in appearance can have important consequences for our physical and mental health. The skin has three layers:
The skin’s colour is created by special cells called melanocytes, which produce the pigment melanin.
Melanocytes are located in the epidermis.
Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It is the most common form of cancer in the UK. Most skin cancers are caused by exposure ultraviolet light in the sun, which damages the DNA in the skin cells. The damage can happen before a cancer can develop. Other less common causes include exposure to toxic substances or having a condition that weakens your immune system. Skin cancers can be cured if detected early.
• Melanoma: these are less common than non-melanoma skin cancers but they are one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer. They can develop from existing moles, but they often appear as new marks on the skin. Melanomas can appear on any part of the skin but they are most common on the body and in women on the legs. . They can invade the skin around them and may also spread to other areas such as lymph nodes, liver and lungs. If they are treated early, the outlook is usually good
• Non-melanoma: these are more common than melanomas. They are not connected to moles and can be less serious as they are less likely to spread to other parts of the body. The two more common types are Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
The most common symptoms of skin cancer are a change to a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin which can itch or bleed or crusts over and does not heal.
There is a simple ABCD system to help recognize skin cancers: