What is skin cancer?

Leading skin cancer experts providing safe and effective treatments and prognosis

  • Book a private consultation with an experienced specialist direct or get referred by your GP
  • Avoid waiting lists and worry with quick and accurate diagnoses and effective treatments
  • Skin cancer experts – our dermatologists are highly qualified in diagnosing and treating skin cancer

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer occurs when abnormal skin cells begin to grow without stopping. Even though it is a serious condition, skin cancer is not usually life-threatening if detected early enough. It can appear anywhere on the skin, but it usually caused by high levels of exposure to UV light from the sun, and therefore usually appears on the face, hands, neck and arms.

Listen to Dr Jane McGregor talk about protection from the sun

Dr McGregor, Expert Diagnosis, Treatment and Advice at the Devonshire Clinic

One of the most common forms of cancer in the UK, there are two main types of skin cancer. Malignant melanoma usually manifests as an abnormal mole before spreading across the body. Non-melanoma skin cancer, which usually appears as a new lump, a scab that doesn’t heal, or a crusty raised area of the skin, is the most common type of skin cancer.

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Diagnosing Skin Cancer
Skin Cancer Treatments

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Skin Cancer

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Treating skin cancer

We are a team of highly qualified, experienced Consultant Dermatologists with access to the latest diagnostic technology. If you are worried about skin cancer or a mole that has recently appeared or changed shape or colour, you can book a consultation directly with one of our skin experts and receive a quick, accurate diagnosis.

What to expect at your Skin Cancer consultation

  • After an initial discussion and examination of the affected area, your specialist will typically recommend that the area be removed surgically so that it can be investigated for cancerous cells.
  • If the biopsy shows that skin cancer is present, your specialist will advise you on the most appropriate options for your diagnosis. Options are available that are proven to be effective at treating the condition.
  • Surgery is usually the primary treatment for skin cancer. If the condition is identified early enough then surgery will remove the cancer cells from the skin quickly and safely. In some cases, diagnosis and treatment occur simultaneously, with all the cancer cells removed as part of the diagnosis process.

Recommended skin cancer treatments

The treatment you receive will depend on the nature of your condition, and our team of skin cancer experts will advise you on the most appropriate treatment options for your individual diagnosis. However, skin surgery is likely to be the initial recommendation.

The skin surgery process

The extent of skin surgery and the time that it takes depends on the area of skin being treated and the technique used. Removal of a cancerous mole using traditional skin surgery can take less than 30 minutes, but Mohs microsurgery can take much longer.

Simple, straightforward skin surgery can usually be done as a day case at The Devonshire Clinic, with a local anaesthetic and a mild sedative if necessary. Larger procedures will require admission to hospital and an inpatient stay.

Which skin surgery is right for me?

The choice of surgical technique will depend on several factors relating to your condition:

  • The size and location of the lesion
  • Whether the lesion is superficial or infiltrating
  • Whether the lesion is benign or malignant
  • Whether the surgery is part of your diagnosis or your treatment
  • The risk of scarring

Your dermatologist will explain the type of skin surgery that you need and exactly what is involved. We will give you our expert advice and recommendations, but the final choice is always up to you. It is particularly important for skin surgery that you have thought through the potential risks before you decide to go ahead.

Mohs Micrographic Surgery

Mohs micrographic surgery involves the removal of cancerous tissue from the tumour, then the immediate examination of the tissue during the procedure. This is repeated until the surgeon is confident that there are no cancer cells remaining.

Photodynamic therapy

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) involves the application of photosensitive cream to the affected area, then stimulating it with light to create a chemical reaction. This can kill both cancerous and non-cancerous cells.

Chemotherapy creams / gels

These topical creams or gels are applied directly to the affected skin and are used to treat precancerous lesions; for example, actinic keratosis or Bowen’s disease.

Frequently Asked Questions Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is when your skin cells grow abnormally, and it’s often caused by exposure to the sun. If
caught early, it’s very treatable. The two main types of skin cancer are non melanoma and
melanoma skin cancer. Non melanoma cancers affect the upper layers of skin and tend to grow
slowly, whereas melanoma cancers affect deeper layers of the skin and spread more quickly.

Basal cell skin cancer (BCC) is the most common skin cancer. It develops in the cells that line the
bottom of the outer layer of skin, or epidermis and accounts for around 75% of skin cancers.
Squamous cell skin cancer (SCC) develops in the cells that line the top of the epidermis above the
basal layer (around 20% of skin cancers). Both BCC and SCC are types of non melanoma skin cancer.

Melanoma skin cancer is less common than non melanoma skin cancer. It develops from abnormal
cells in deeper areas of the skin, known as melanocytes, and can spread faster than non melanoma
skin cancer to other organs in the body.

The primary treatment for skin cancer is surgery. The type of surgery you’ll need depends on the
cancer’s size, type, and location. Skin surgery is used to treat basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell
carcinoma and malignant melanoma. It might involve removing a mole or lesion, and a small area
around it (excisional biopsy). This is used both to diagnose and treat skin cancer. You might also be
offered shave excision, where raised moles can be removed by a shaving technique that doesn’t
involve having stitches. Punch excision is when a blade removes the problem area and takes a
sample for analysis. Elliptical excision is when a section of skin around the lesion is cut to help skin
heal better. And Mohs micrographic surgery treats skin cancer by removing cells layer by layer,
examining each layer under a microscope until the area is free of cancer. Mohs micrographic surgery
has the highest cure rates and the lowest risk of recurrence for certain types of skin cancer.

Other types of skin cancer treatment include radiotherapy, immunotherapy cream, photodynamic
therapy (PDT), chemotherapy cream, or a combination. Treatment options for more advanced types
of skin cancer that have spread to other organs include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and

Signs of non melanoma skin cancer include a new patch of skin or lump that doesn’t heal within a
few weeks. You might see changes to an existing or new mole, usually on the back, legs, arms, or
face. Melanomas are often more noticeable than a normal mole, irregular in shape, and have more
than one colour. Sometimes they itch or bleed.

Although there are no national skin screening programmes in the UK to check for skin, it’s a good
idea to check your skin regularly, particularly on areas exposed to the sun. If you’re worried about
your skin, arrange to see your GP or a consultant dermatologist as soon as possible.

Your GP will examine your skin and decide whether you need to see a skin specialist. They might
take pictures of the area to email a specialist for advice. Alternatively, you may wish to consult a skin
specialist (dermatologist) immediately. If you see a skin dermatologist, they may take a skin biopsy.
This means they remove some or all the affected area to examine the cells in a laboratory. They will
be able to identify the type of cancer and discover whether it is likely to spread and how to treat it.
In some cases, you can be diagnosed and treated during one appointment.

The best way to protect yourself from skin cancer is to minimise the time you expose your skin to the sun and to wear a high-SPF sunscreen (at least factor 15). Wearing clothes that cover up your skin, a hat, and sunglasses that protect you from UVA and UVB light, can also reduce your risk. And avoid using sunbeds or sunlamps.

Rarely, skin cancer can be fatal, particularly if it spreads. But, in most cases, the outlook is good.
Most non melanoma skin cancer can be cured, and it’s rare for basal cell skin cancer to spread.
Although, in some cases, squamous cell skin cancer can spread to other parts of the body, it can still
be cured. But the sooner your cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat successfully.

Although it’s rare, children can get skin cancer. For example, melanoma, the most severe type of
skin cancer, is found in 300-400 children in the US each year. And, because it’s so rare, it’s often
undiagnosed until the later stages, when treatment may be more difficult. Childhood skin cancer can
also look different from adult skin cancers, with areas becoming itchy or bleeding. And childhood
melanomas can look different too. Lesions might look like a flaky or shiny sore that doesn’t heal.

Non melanoma skin cancer is more common in children whose immune system has been weakened
by an illness or medication. Keeping your child protected from the sun, and using high-SPF
sunscreen, can help reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Yes, anyone of any age can get skin cancer, but it’s rare in children and more common in older fair-
skinned people who have spent long periods in the sun or on a sunbed, especially if they’ve had
sunburn. Certain medical conditions, including solar keratosis and HIV, can also increase your risk, as
can medicines that suppress the immune system, radiation therapy, certain chemicals such as
creosote, and a family history of skin cancer, or having had skin cancer in the past.

Melanin is a natural protective pigment in your skin that protects it from sunburn. People who have
albinism (a condition that’s passed down in families where your skin doesn’t have any melanin) are
also at increased risk of skin cancer. The darker your skin, the more melanin protection you have
against most types of skin cancer. However, people with black skin can sometimes develop a rarer
type of cancer, Acral lentiginous melanoma, on their palms, nail beds, and soles of the feet.

No, moles aren’t necessarily a sign of skin cancer; and having moles doesn’t mean you will get skin
cancer in the future. However, research has shown that the more moles you have, the greater your
risk of melanoma. The best advice is to avoid exposure to the sun and be alert to any changes to
your existing moles or new skin changes. Ask your doctor for advice if you’re worried.

Non melanoma skin cancer

Skin Cancer Treatments

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Why use the Devonshire Clinic?

If you are concerned about skin cancer, it is important that you book an appointment with a qualified Consultant Dermatologist at your earliest convenience. Skin cancer is not life threatening if diagnosed and treated quickly and is generally much easier to manage early compared to other types of cancer.

We are one of London’s leading private skin clinics, employing only Consultant Dermatologists to diagnose and treat a wide range of skin conditions and diseases. Our specialists have extensive experience diagnosing and treating all types of skin cancer and, as a private provider, we can provide fast diagnosis and treatment, avoiding the need to be on an NHS waiting list. We can give you the best possible chance of a quick diagnosis and removal of skin cancer. Do not wait – book a consultation with one of our skin specialists now.

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
Consultant Dermatologist
& 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
Consultant Dermatologist

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.

Professor Chris Griffiths
Professor of Dermatology

Chris Griffiths is Adjunct Professor of Dermatology, King’s College London, Consultant Dermatologist, King’s College Hospital and Emeritus Professor of Dermatology University of Manchester. He qualified in medicine from St Thomas’ Hospital Medical School and trained in dermatology in London and Michigan.

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. Carolina Fernandez
Consultant Dermatologist

Dr. Carolina Fernandez is a consultant dermatologist affiliated with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. She graduated from Imperial College London Medical School, where she obtained her medical degree in 2009.

Dr Rachel Sidwell
Consultant Dermatologist

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.

Shahme Farook
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
Consultant Dermatologist

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
Consultant Dermatologist

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.

Second Opinions

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.

Read our
Patient Stories

I can’t recommend this clinic highly enough. The treatment I received for my skin cancer was first class

AL, 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

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