Skin Cancer: Non-Melanoma
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, affecting 100,000 people a year, and is caused by too much exposure to UV light from the sun or sunbeds. The overwhelming majority of these are non-melanoma cancers, which are not life-threatening.
Non-melanoma cancers develop slowly in the upper layers of your skin - they aren’t connected to moles, and thankfully, they are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body. In most cases they can be effectively treated and cured, especially if they are detected early.
What are the most common forms of non-melanoma skin cancer?
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer in the UK, accounting for 90% of all skin cancers. Although it can be understandably worrying if you are diagnosed with skin cancer, treatment for BCC is usually straightforward and successful.
It is an extremely slow growing cancer, and very rarely spreads to other parts of the body. If it has been undetected for a long time or is in an awkward place, like the ears or face, treatment can be more complicated, but is still very effective.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is less common, develops very slowly, and is also highly treatable. However, if left untreated there is a small risk it can spread to other parts of the body. If you are at all worried about skin cancer, it is important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible.
What are the symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancers?
Non-melanoma cancers can vary hugely in appearance, and if you notice any unusual lumps or changes to the skin, you should visit a specialist at the earliest opportunity. Possible signs you should look out for include:
- a scab or sore that won’t heal, that may also bleed occasionally
- a scaly or crusty patch of skin that looks inflamed
- a flesh coloured lump that is increasing in size
- a lump with a pearly rim, surrounding a central ‘crater’, rather like a volcano
Non-melanoma cancers are most likely to appear on parts of your body that have been exposed to the sun, such as your head and neck, and the back of your hands. They can also develop on damaged skin, old scars or ulcers. Although they are not usually fast growing, it’s a good idea to get any symptoms examined as early as possible, to rule out other forms of cancer.
What causes non-melanoma cancers?
The biggest cause of skin cancer is too much exposure to UV light from the sun or sunbeds, so you should cover any exposed skin if you are going to be in the sun for any length of time, and use sunblock.
Skin cancers are caused by mutations to our cells in the upper layer of the skin by UV rays. Those most at risk are fair skinned adults who burn easily – especially those who work outdoors, or have lived in hot, sunny countries.
What should you do if you’re worried about non-melanoma skin cancer?
If you are worried about any changes to your skin, or have noticed any of the warning signs for skin cancer it is important to see a specialist as soon as possible.
Our team of Consultant Dermatologists include some of the UK’s leading skin cancer specialists, and they offer highly skilled diagnosis and cutting-edge treatment for all types of skin cancer. Non-melanoma cancers can usually be diagnosed after a detailed clinical consultation, and if needed, can be confirmed by a simple skin biopsy.
Can non-melanoma cancers be cured?
Non-melanoma skin cancers can usually be cured, often using a small surgical procedure to remove the lesion. Other treatments for low-risk cancers include cryotherapy, topical creams or light therapy. In more complicated cases, microsurgery may be used to target the cancer precisely and to make sure it is completely removed.
Our Consultant Dermatologists have many years’ expertise in treating skin cancer and will tailor your treatment according to the type and size of your skin lesion and your individual medical history. Luckily, the treatment options for non-melanoma cancers are relatively quick and highly successful.
Visiting our clinic
If you are worried about any changes to your skin and would like to find out more, or make an appointment with one of our Consultant Dermatologists, please call us on 020 724 4200.