Skin Cancer Screening

Anyone can develop a skin cancer, and this risk increases with time. However some people are more likely to do so than others; they include those who have:

• Fair skin that burns easily

• Naturally blonde or red hair

• Numerous freckles

• Outdoor work and/or -intense sun exposure in the past

• Have suffered from sunburn

• A history of skin cancer

Treatment will be much easier if your skin cancer is detected early. For this reason, check your skin for changes once a month. You should see a doctor if you have any marks on your skin which are:

• Growing

• Bleeding

• Changing in appearance in any way

• Never healing completely

• Any existing mole that changes shape, texture or colour

Some of the most common precancerous conditions and skin cancers are:

• Actinic keratosis (also known as solar keratosis): Skin cancers may be preceded by a pre-cancerous condition known as actinic keratosis. These are usually pink or red spots, with a rough surface, which appear on skin that is exposed to the sun. Early treatment may prevent them changing into skin cancer.

• Basal cell carcinoma (rodent ulcer): Most basal cell carcinomas are painless. People often first become aware of them as a scab that bleeds occasionally and does not heal completely. Some basal cell carcinomas are very superficial and look like a scaly flat red mark: others show a white pearly rim surrounding a central crater. If left for years, the latter type can erode the skin, eventually causing an ulcer.

• Squamous cell carcinoma: A squamous cell carcinoma usually appears as a scaly or crusty area of skin, with a red, inflamed base. It may look like an irritated wart or break down to form a bleeding ulcer. Most small squamous cell carcinomas are not painful, but pain in a growing lump is a suspicious sign for squamous cell carcinoma.

• Melanoma: Melanomas are the most serious type of skin cancer. They are usually an irregular brown or black spot, which may start in a pre-existing mole or appear on previously normal skin. Any change in a mole, or any new mole occurring for the first time after the age of thirty, should be assessed by a doctor.