There are several different types of skin cancer, but the one that is most
feared is certainly melanoma.
A melanoma can grow rapidly, and will eventually spread to other parts of the
body. Once it has spread, it will be fatal in most cases.
Who gets melanoma?
Most skin cancers are seen in older people, or young people with very fair
They usually occur in the most sun-damaged areas, such as the face, ears,
scalp, neck, back, forearms and hands.
Melanoma is a little different, in that it can occur in young people, and in
areas of skin that haven’t had much sun exposure.
There are even reported cases of melanoma occurring between the toes, or in
It is still more common in people with fair skin, but when checking for
melanoma you have to look literally everywhere.
The A B C D E of melanoma recognition:
Asymmetry (irregular shape)
Border irregularities (rather than a smooth, rounded border)
Colour variegation (different colours within the same region)
Diameter greater than 6 mm
Enlargement or progressive change in colour or shape
What does it look
Almost anything! Whilst most melanomas are very dark in colour, and may have
irregular borders and multiple colours, they can sometimes be pale or
skin-coloured. This makes them potentially very difficult to recognise.
Should I be worried about my
Most of us have many moles and freckles, and will develop new ones from time
to time. We need to watch for changes in these moles:
I encourage my patients to watch their skin closely for new changes. Digital
photography is also helpful: take a high-resolution photo, and then repeat it
a couple of months later and compare the images on a large computer screen. Is
there any difference? If there has been no change, it is unlikely to be a
All you can do is continue to protect your skin from the sun, and to be
watchful. If you see any spots that have changed, even if they’re not
dark in colour, you should seek advice from a doctor.
WATCHING FOR MELANOMAS
Change in size
Change in colour
Bleeding or crusting
Change in shape
Lesion diameter greater than 6mm