1. ITV Report

Melanoma: What it is and how to spot the warning signs

Pam Royle has opened up on her skin cancer scare Credit: ITV Border

ITV Border presenter Pam Royle is urging people to be aware of skin cancer after being diagnosed with melanoma.

Here we look at what the disease is and what can be done to prevent it.

What are the symptoms?

The most common sign of melanoma is a new mole appearing or a change in an existing mole.

Moles can occur anywhere on the body, but the most commonly affected areas are the back in men and the legs in women.

In the majority of cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than one colour. The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed.

Melanomas fall into four basic categories Credit: ITV Border

What are the different types of melanoma?

Melanomas fall into four basic categories. Three of them begin in situ, meaning they occupy only the top layers of the skin, and sometimes become invasive.

Invasive melanomas are more serious, as they have penetrated deeper into the skin and may have spread to other areas of the body.

The most common type is the superficial spreading melanoma, which tends to start growing outwards rather than downwards into the skin. It is not usually at risk of spreading to other parts of the body until it begins to grow downwards into the deeper layers of skin and beyond.

Sunbathers can put themselves at risk of skin cancer Credit: PA

What causes melanoma? Exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun is thought to cause most melanomas, but it also could be caused by using sunbeds.

Your chance of developing melanoma increases if you have:

  • Lots of moles or freckles
  • Pale skin that burns easily
  • Red or blonde hair
  • A close family member who's had melanoma

How is it treated?

The main treatment for melanoma that hasn't spread is surgery.

The abnormal mole is removed, along with a small area of surrounding skin. People may need a second operation to remove a larger area of healthy tissue around the melanoma. As long as the doctors are sure they removed enough tissue, this is all the treatment you need.

If the melanoma has spread, the main treatments are: biological therapy, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

ITV Border GP Dr Ajay Bedi has issued his advice on how to spot – and avoid skin cancer including the A,B,C,D,E method of spotting moles:

  • A: Asymmetry: Draw a line down the middle of a melanoma, the two halves would look very different
  • B: Borders. The edges tend to be irregular around the outside
  • C: Colour. Melanomas are often more than one type of colour
  • D: Diameter. Melanomas tend to be a bit bigger than a normal freckle
  • E: Evolution. Look out for changes. If something is growing or changing in colour and/or shape or if there is crusting, itching or bleeding get it checked out

Dr Bedi said: “It’s really critical people understand what their own skin looks like. If something new appears and you don’t know what your skin looks like in the first place it’s harder to pick it up."

On prevention, Dr Bedi urged people to cover up against the sun's rays.

He added: "General suncare is really important. At home and abroad. At least factor 30 all the time. Covering up when you can, avoiding the midday sun and not using sunbeds too often."