Moles and Melanoma
The appearance of a new mole, or changes in the size, shape or appearance of existing moles can, on rare occasions, be a sign of a type of skin cancer called melanoma. So what exactly is melanoma, why does it happen and what can be done about it?
What is melanoma?
Melanoma is an aggressive type of skin cancer that, if left untreated, can spread rapidly to the lymphatic system and other organs of the body, such as the liver and the lungs.
Listen to Dr Jane McGregor talk about Melanoma
Fortunately, melanoma is quite a rare form of cancer, with only around 13,000 cases each year in the UK. This compares to over 40,000 cases of bowel and lung cancer and over 50,000 cases of breast cancer per year. Many people assume that skin cancer comes with age, after many years of sun exposure, however Melanoma affects young people more than most other cancers.
Melanoma is the most prevalent cancer amongst 15-34 year olds, so its never too early to start regular mole screening for all members of your family.
Melanoma is also the one of the most deadly cancers, with over 2,000 deaths per year, accounting for the majority of skin cancer deaths. However, it is also one of the most easily, and successfully cured, as long as the cancer is identified early enough. With this in mind, the importance of regular mole screening and self checking cannot be overstated.
What causes melanoma?
Melanoma is a fault in the skin cells that makes them develop in an abnormal way. No one knows exactly what causes melanoma skin cancer, although there are a number of risk factors that have been identified. You are more likely to develop melanoma if you have:
- Pale skin that burns rather than tanning
- Ginger or blonde hair and blue eyes
- Many existing moles and freckles
- A family history of melanoma
- A medical condition that reduces your immune system, or you are taking drugs that suppress it
How is melanoma diagnosed?
Suspected melanomas are identified by observing differences in your existing moles, using the ABCDE system of comparison, or new moles that suddenly appear. If a mole is suspected of being cancerous, the diagnosis will be checked by taking a biopsy, in which some or all of the mole is removed and examined under a microscope to see if it contains cancer cells.
It is important to remember that melanoma is a rare condition, and most moles that are biopsied will come up negative for cancer, however it is always best to have these moles checked to be sure.
How is melanoma treated?
If it is caught early, the standard treatment for melanoma skin cancer is the surgical removal of the cancerous cells. If all the cells are successfully removed, there is little chance that the cancer will return.
If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, then these too will need to be removed. You will also need close monitoring and further treatment to avoid the cancer returning. If the cancer has spread to other organs you may be offered other treatments such as chemotherapy.
Skin Cancer Treatments
Why use the Devonshire Clinic?
Our Dermatology Specialists
Our team of skin specialists at our dermatology clinic in London have many years of experience in treating patients with skin conditions. We understand your issues and aim to tailor our service so that you feel comfortable and reassured. Learn more about our dermatology consultants below.
Dr Conal Perrett
& Dermatological Surgeon
Dr Conal Perrett is a leading Consultant Dermatologist & Dermatologic Surgeon practising at The Devonshire Clinic. Dr Perrett has expertise in general Dermatology and a specialist interest in skin cancer and skin surgery, utilising the most advanced high-tech equipment and techniques, including Photodynamic therapy (PDT), lasers and Mohs micrographic surgery.
Dr Jane McGregor
For over 30 years, Dr Jane McGregor has provided expert dermatological care to patients. She has expertise in photobiology, skin cancer, sun allergy and dermatology. Dr Jane McGregor is an internationally recognised specialist in her field of skin cancer and skin disease for organ transplant recipients.
Dr Ian Logan
Consultant Dermatologist and Dermatological Surgeon
Dr Ian Logan specialises in skin lesion diagnosis and removal, skin cancer, skin surgery, Mohs micrographic surgery and general dermatology. Dr Ian Logan has received higher specialist training after completing a fellowship in Mohs Surgery and Advanced Dermatological Surgery at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Dr Elizabeth Kulakov
Consultant Dermatologist and Dermatological Surgeon
Dr Elizabeth Kulakov is the Skin Cancer Lead at University College London Hospital NHS Trust. Dr Elizabeth Kulakov specialises in skin cancer, skin surgery, Mohs micrographic surgery and general dermatology.
Dr Rachel Sidwell
Dr Rachel Sidwell is a highly experienced Consultant Dermatologist. Whilst she consults on all skin issues including skin cancers and general Dermatology, she has special expertise in paediatric dermatology.
Consultant Head and Neck/Reconstruction and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
Shahme Farook is a Consultant Head and Neck/Reconstruction and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon at Northwick Park Hospital.
Dr Daniel O’Driscoll
Dr Daniel O’Driscoll is a consultant dermatologist with an NHS practice at Hammersmith Hospital, part of Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust. He trained at Oxford University Medical School, undertaking an intercalated MA in Medical Sciences.
Dr Ashley Spencer
Dr Ashley Spencer is ranked first nationally for entrance into dermatology training which has earned her a place on the North London Dermatology Training Programme. Dr Ashley Spencer specialises in many treatments for skin conditions, especially skin manifestations of connective tissue disease, including lupus. As a member of the Royal Society of Medicine, the British Association of Dermatologists and the British Society for the Study of vulval disease, Dr Ashley Spencer has access to the latest information about dermatology.
Mr Jonathan Dunne
Consultant Plastic Surgeon
Mr Jonathan Dunne is a Consultant Plastic Surgeon with nearly 15 years of experience. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (Plastic Surgery), specialising in skin cancer, facial plastic surgery, and head and neck surgery.
When you are faced with difficult medical choices or uncertainty and you want clarity about your diagnosis and the treatment that you will receive, then getting a second opinion from a private doctor can help put your mind at rest.
I can’t recommend this clinic highly enough. The treatment I received for my skin cancer was first classAL, London
The team at the Devonshire Clinic were excellent. From booking my appointments to every part of my treatment, I felt that I was in the very best hands.CH, London
Before visiting the clinic I had quite high expectations, but I was blown away by just how brilliant the experience was. I felt like I was the only patient in the clinic. Simply the best medical treatment.SF, London
Dr Conal Perrett and Dr Ian Logan of The Devonshire Clinic have published an important retrospective study on a rare tumour called pleomorphic dermal sarcoma in the journal Cancer Reports.
Dr Conal Perrett, Consultant Dermatologist at The Devonshire Clinic and senior author of the st[...]Read More