A major survey by the British Association of Dermatologists reveals that only one person in 25 checks their skin for signs of skin cancer once a month. Checking is recommended every four weeks to spot any skin cancers as soon as possible so they can be treated promptly.
“The survey also found that most people are generally not aware of what to look out for. Few people seem confident that they would be able to spot the signs of either melanoma skin cancer (the most aggressive form) or non-melanoma skin cancer,” explains Dr Conal Perrett, Consultant Dermatologist, The Devonshire Clinic.
Over 1000 people were interviewed for the study, which was published last week during Sun Awareness Week.
“Melanoma skin cancers often arise in a mole, so checking your moles regularly or having an expert mole check is a good idea, particularly if you have a lot of moles,” says Dr Perrett.
Signs to look for include:
Mole checks at The Devonshire Clinic include digital mole mapping. A detailed photograph of the skin on every part of your body is taken and stored. We use advanced computer software to compare your current mole map with previous ones so that we can detect any changes in shape or size, or any new moles that have developed.
13,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in the UK each year. It can be highly aggressive, spreading quickly in the skin and then to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body. This type of skin cancer kills over 2000 people each year.
This type of skin cancer is less likely to become invasive and spread through the body and is easily treated if caught early.
Signs to look for include:
“It is particularly worrying that this survey found that over 70% of people had been sunburnt at least once in the previous 12 months. Despite strenuous efforts to make people aware that even mild sunburn can damage the skin, increasing the risk of skin cancer, few people seem concerned,” notes Dr Perrett.
Although skin cancer is treatable when detected early, prevention is better. Using a good sunscreen whenever you go out in the sun, avoiding the strongest sun and covering up with a hat, long-sleeves and sunglasses are all recommended.
Dr Conal Perrett is a leading expert in Mohs micrographic surgery, the gold standard technique that removes skin cancers layer by layer.
“Mohs surgery allows us to remove the cancer in its entirety. The cancer is removed layer by layer and we examine it under the microscope on the same day. It has the highest cure rate available and is associated with the lowest chance of recurrence. Furthermore, it is also tissue sparing, which means we only take the tissue we need, so it leaves less scarring than other surgical methods” he explains.
Dr Perrett stresses that all skin cancers are treatable if diagnosed early. Non-melanoma skin cancers can be removed safely and completely, with no impact on your future health. Melanomas may need more aggressive treatment but if they are removed before they have started to spread, survival rates are extremely high.
“Skin cancer is one of the most curable cancers – if we catch it early. I would encourage everyone to check their skin once a month and seek medical advice on any worrying signs. At The Devonshire Clinic we offer complete skin checks and mole screening to set your mind at rest.”
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