Detect skin cancer

Everyone should appreciate the steps they can take to detect skin cancer. The reasons for this can be illustrated by outlining some statistics. According to Cancer Research UK, 12,818 people were diagnosed with malignant melanoma skin cancer in 2010, and 100,000 with non-melanoma skin cancer. The number of deaths from skin cancer in Britain was 2,746 in 2010, with a further 546 from the non-malignant variant.

The risks of skin cancer

According to statistics collated from 2008 data, the lifetime risk of developing malignant melanoma is about 1 in 61 for men and 1 in 60 for women. The parts of the body most affected vary by sex, with more than 40% of males developing melanoma on the trunk, while the commonest location for females is on the legs. Non-melanoma skin cancer is by far the commonest type of cancer in the UK. Because this type of cancer often goes unreported, the total number of cases could be even higher.

The good news is that most skin cancers are relatively easy to cure. Because the most common cause is over-exposure to sunlight, you should always take protective steps, such as using appropriate sunblock or covering up.

To detect skin cancer, you should look out for changes to your skin. In checking for any differences, no matter how subtle, use the ABCD rule:-

  • A – Asymmetry. This is where the two halves of a mole don’t look the same
  • B – Border. The edges of a mole are blurred or irregular
  • C – Colour. The mole has uneven shades
  • D – Diameter. The mole is wider than 6mm in diameter.

Other ways to detect skin cancer include looking for:

  • - New growths or sores that won’t healspots.
  • - Moles or sores that are sore or itchy
  • - Moles or growths that bleed or turn to scabs.

What to do if you see changes

If you think you detect skin cancer, the immediate step to take is to visit your doctor. Whenever you notice any change in a freckle, mole or skin patch, you should get it checked, whether that alteration has occurred quickly or over a long period. The doctor will assess the problem and decide whether you should be referred to a specialist for tests.

Most of these changes are not caused by cancer. If cancer is detected early enough, treatment is quick and effective.

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