There are two main types of skin cancer: malignant melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.
Malignant melanoma (or simply melanoma) is the most serious type of skin cancer. It usually develops in the outer layer cells of the skin, but can spread to other parts of the body, and even be fatal. It is vital to detect and treat melanoma early. It affects young adults as well as older people, and is most commonly detected in people aged 65 to 79 years old.
What are the signs of melanoma?
See your doctor immediately if:
- A mole has an uneven outline (ordinary moles are smooth and regular)
- A mole has a mixture of different shades of brown and black (ordinary moles may be dark brown but uniform in colour)
The following signs do not necessarily mean that you have a melanoma, but should still be checked:
- An inflamed mole or one with a reddish edge
- A mole that starts to bleed, ooze or crust
- A change in sensation of a mole, like a mild itch
- A mole that is bigger than all of your other moles
Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common and easily treated type, accounting for nine out of 10 skin cancers. Basal cell and squamous cell are the two main types of non-melanoma skin cancer.
Basal cell cancer is the most common and tends to affect older people. It grows quite slowly and usually starts as a small round or flattened lump that is red, pale or pearly in colour. It can sometimes appear as an eczema-like patch on the skin. Basal cell cancers usually occur on areas of skin most exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, shoulders and limbs.
Squamous cell cancer is more serious than basal cell cancer as it can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. Squamous cell cancers appear as persistent red scaly spots, lumps, sores or ulcers, which may bleed easily. They also tend to affect older people and occur most often on the head, neck, hands and forearms.
What are the signs of non-melanoma skin cancer?
Check regularly for the following:
- A new growth or sore that does not heal within four weeks
- A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab or bleed
- Persistent unexplained skin ulcers