In the UK, there are at least 100,000 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed annually, making it one of the most common cancers. There are three main types of skin cancer; basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma which is the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

Risk factors for skin cancer include exposure to UV radiation from the sun, e.g. by living in a sunny climate or working outside.  Having fair skin or a positive family history also increases your chances of developing skin cancer.

Types of skin cancer

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC): often presents as a scab that fails to heal and occasionally bleeds.  It is very slow-growing and doesn’t spread to other organs, but early treatment is always recommended.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): presents as a firm lump which may be crusted or scaly.  SCCs can grow more rapidly than BCC and if left untreated can spread.

Melanoma: is a skin cancer arising from pigment cells or melanocytes and most commonly presents as a new or changing mole-like lesion.  It is the most dangerous type of skin cancer because it can spread.

How is skin cancer treated?

Pre-cancerous skin lesions can be treated with creams or by cryotherapy.  Suspected skin cancer is usually treated by excising the lesion under local anaesthetic.  Sometimes a sample biopsy to test whether or not the lesion is a skin cancer may be needed to plan the best treatment.