BCCs, SCCs and melanoma cancers rarely spread so there is little risk to life. However, anyone showing signs of these cancers should always see their doctor. They are usually treated by surgery or radiotherapy. Melanomas are potentially much more serious as most of them can spread to other parts of the body and can therefore threaten life. However if detected early they can be treated successfully and 98% of patients diagnosed with Stage 1 melanoma will survive 5 years. We are focusing on melanomas on this page.
Although half of melanomas occur in people over 65, they can occur from adolescence onwards. They are getting commoner each year, possibly due to taking holidays in sunnier climes. Most melanomas will occur on skin exposed to sunlight but can occur on other parts of the body.
The biggest risk factor is UV radiation from sunlight and sun-beds. Some will arise in skin damaged by sunburn in early life.
The risk is also increased if you have:
To reduce your risk of melanoma:
Comprehensive information and advice about your skin type and sun awareness from the British Association of Dermatologists can be found here.
There is no national screening programme for melanoma. This is because it is not very common, and screening would mean a lot of unnecessary checks. The cost of running a screening programme would, at present, outweigh the benefits. It is therefore really important to be aware of signs and symptoms, and go and see your doctor if you have any concerns.