I’m a GP – here are the 5 skin cancer red flags you must know

It looks like summer has finally arrived in the UK – and it might stay.

Parts of England hit a sweltering 28C this weekend.

A doctor has warned of five early warning signs of melanoma that we all need to be aware of


A doctor has warned of five early warning signs of melanoma that we all need to be aware ofPhoto credit: Getty

And next weekend the temperatures are likely to be around the same level.

While it can be wonderful to bask and tan in the heat, the sun’s rays can pose a real risk for skin cancer.

There are different forms of skin cancer, which generally fall under non-melanoma and melanoma.

Non-melanoma skin cancers, which are diagnosed a total of 147,000 times a year in the UK, cause around 720 deaths in the UK each year.

While melanoma is diagnosed 16,000 times a year, it is the most serious form and tends to spread throughout the body.

According to Cancer Research UK, 2,340 people die each year from the deadly cancer.

As with any cancer, chances of survival are best when the disease is caught early.

An expert has warned of the five early warning signs of melanoma we all need to be on the lookout for.

dr Nikita Patel, a general practitioner and associate medical director at Vitality, said the most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole, or a change in an existing mole anywhere on the body.

She said: “Skin cancer most commonly develops on areas that receive more regular sun exposure, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, and on the legs in women.”

“But you have to be aware that skin cancer can also develop in places that rarely come to light — on the palms of your hands, under your fingernails or toenails, in your mouth and around your genitals.”

The five characters are:

  1. A mole with an irregular shape
  2. A birthmark with an irregular or jagged edge
  3. A birthmark of uneven color
  4. The mole is bigger than a pea
  5. A mole who suddenly changed in some way

“Did (the birthmark) start to ooze or bleed? Has it started to itch or hurt? Those are all good reasons to get your GP’s opinion,” she said.

“If possible, keep a journal of the lesion, how it has changed, measure it with a ruler, and take photos regularly,” added Dr. Added Nikita.

It’s important to wear sunscreen even when it’s cloudy, as the UV rays can penetrate through the clouds and cause deadly skin cancer.

It is also worth avoiding the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is at its strongest.

Signs of non-melanoma skin cancer you should know

The first sign of non-melanoma skin cancer is usually the appearance of a lump or discolored patch on the skin, according to the NHS.

It persists after a few weeks and slowly progresses over months or sometimes years.

In most cases, cancerous lumps are red and firm, and sometimes develop into ulcers. Cancer foci are usually flat and scaly.

The two most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Basal Cell Cancer (BCC)

Sometimes referred to as a rodent ulcer, basal cell cancer (BCC) affects the outermost layers of cells in the skin.

Signs of BCCs include skin growth that:

  • Looks smooth and pearly
  • Appears waxy
  • Looks like a solid red lump
  • Sometimes it bleeds
  • A scab or crust forms
  • Never fully heals
  • itches
  • Looks like a flat red spot and is scaly and crusty
  • Develops into a painless ulcer

Around 75 percent of all skin cancers are BCC. These typically grow slowly and almost never spread to other parts of the body.

With early treatment, this form of skin cancer is usually completely cured.

As they become more aggressive, BCCs can spread into the deeper layers of the skin and into the bones—which can make treatment more difficult.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Another form of non-melanoma skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma.

This is a cancer of the keratinocyte cells, which are located in the outer layer of the skin.

These cells are mainly found on the face, neck, bald scalp, arms, backs of hands and lower legs.

A lump on the skin can:

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  • Appears scaly
  • Have a hard, crusty cap
  • to be raised
  • Be tender when touched
  • sometimes bleeds

Non-melanoma skin cancer most commonly develops on areas of the skin that are regularly exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, hands, shoulders, upper chest and back.

Aila Slisco

Aila Slisco is a Dailynationtoday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Aila Slisco joined Dailynationtoday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: ailaslisco@dailynationtoday.com.

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