Skin cancer: The facts and what to look for 

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, but most skin cancers can be cured if detected early. 

There are two main types of skin cancer; melanoma and non-melanoma. 


Melanomas 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 more often appear as new marks on the skin. 

Melanomas can appear on any part of the skin but they are most common in men on the body, and in women on the legs. 

In adults, 70% of melanoma cases are not-associated with existing moles. 

How to spot melanoma skin cancer

Any changes to your skin can be a concern, but in particular look out for growing size, changing shape, developing new colours, bleeding, pain, crusting, red around the edges or itching. About once a month, check your skin for moles or marks that are changing or new. 

The ABCD system tells you some of the things to lookout for. 

A melanoma may show one or more of the following features:

 Asymmetry - the two haves of the area differ in their shape.

 Border - the edges of the area may be irregular or blurred, and sometimes show notches. 

 Colour - this may be uneven. Different shades of black, brown and pink may be seen. 

 Diameter - most melanomas are at least 6 mm in diameter. 

REMEMBER - IF IN DOUBT, CHECK IT OUT! Tell your doctor about any changes to a mole or patch of skin, or a new mole or mark on adult skin. 

Find out more about melanoma skin cancer


Non-melanoma skin cancers 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. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common, whilst squamous cell carcinoma is the more dangerous as it is the more likely of the two to spread to other parts of the body. 

What to look out for

Non-melanoma skin cancers tend to appear gradually and anywhere on the body, but are most common on the areas of skin most exposed to the sun such as the head, neck, lips, ears and the backs of hands. Old scars, burns, ulcers or wounds that do not heal are also at risk areas. They will often not be painful. 

Some of the possible signs to look our for: 

 A scab or sore that will not heal. 

 A scaly or crusty patch of skin that is red or inflamed.

 A flesh coloured bump that won't go away and grows in size.

 A volcano like growth with a rim and a central crater. 

REMEMBER - IF IN DOUBT CHECK IT OUT! Tell your doctor about any changes to a mole or patch of skin, or a new mole or mark on adult skin. 

Find out more about basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. 

More information

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Images supplied by DermNet NZ.