Skin cancer: Dr Chris outlines the signs of a melanoma
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Skin cancer symptoms depend on the type of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) symptoms are more likely to develop on skin that’s regularly exposed to the sun. BCCs may appear as smooth and pearly-white, waxy, a firm, red lump or may look sunken in the middle. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) usually develop in areas that have been damaged by sun exposure. SCCs may look scaly, have a hard, crusty scab or bleed sometimes.
About half of all melanomas start with a new, abnormal-looking mole.
But because melanoma can potentially spread to distant areas of the body, it can cause a variety of symptoms depending on its location.
Moffitt Cancer Centre explains: “Melanoma near the lungs may lead to shortness of breath, while melanoma on the head can result in headaches or vision changes.”
- Shortness of breath
- Vision changes
Melanoma can happen anywhere on the body but the most commonly affected areas are the back in men and the legs in women, advises the NHS.
It adds: “Melanomas are uncommon in areas that are protected from sun exposure, such as the buttocks and the scalp.
“In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than one colour.
“The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed.
“Look out for a mole that gradually changes shape, size or colour.”
Melanoma skin cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK with around 16,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
It’s not always preventable, but there are things you can do to reduce your chances of developing it by avoiding getting sunburned.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association offers some top tips to protect your skin.
Seek shade when appropriate
It advises: “The sun’s rays are strongest between 10am and 2pm. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.”
Wear sun-protective clothing
Lightweight and long-sleeved shirts and trousers are recommended, as well as a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection.
It adds: “For more effective sun protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) label.”
Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher
It explains: “Broad-spectrum sunscreen provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
“Use sunscreen whenever you are going to be outside, even on cloudy days.
“Apply enough sunscreen to cover all skin not covered by clothing. Most adults need about 1 ounce — or enough to fill a shot glass — to fully cover their body.
“Don’t forget to apply it to the tops of your feet, your neck, your ears and the top of your head.”
Other tips include:
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating
- Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they can reflect the damaging rays of the sun
- Avoid tanning beds
- Consider using a self-tanning product
- Perform regular skin self-exams
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