Skin cancer: what are the warning signs?

86% of skin cancer cases in the UK have been deemed preventable. Credit: ITV West Country

More than 100,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year.

Non-melanoma skin cancer often develops on areas of the skin that are regularly exposed to the sun - face, ears, hands, shoulders, upper chest and back.

The first sign of non-melanoma skin cancer is usually the appearance of a discoloured patch on the skin.

It persists slowly progresses over months or sometimes years. That is the cancer tumour.

They are usually red, firm or flat and scaly.

The two common types of skin cancer are:

  • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) – it starts in the cells lining the bottom of the epidermis and makes up about 75% of skin cancers

  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – it starts in the cells lining the top of the epidermis and makes up about 20% of skin cancers.

Skin cancer is caused by overexposure to ultraviolet light, particularly from the sun. Credit: ITV West Country

Skin cancer is caused by:

Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, which comes from the sun. It also comes from artificial tanning sunbeds and sunlamps.

Other factors that may increase chances of developing non-melanoma skin cancer include:

  • a previous non-melanoma skin cancer

  • a family history of skin cancer

  • pale skin that burns easily

  • a large number of moles or freckles

  • a co-existing medical condition that suppresses your immune system

  • medication that suppresses your immune system

People are advised to wear sunscreen whenever they are exposed to the sun, whether on the beach, or even just working outside.

They are also advised to remain in the shade if possible, and wear appropriate clothing.

Experts say that as a nation we do not apply sunscreen often enough, or with a high enough sun protection factor - or SPF.

Although it doesn't provide 100% complete protection from sun damage, it is very useful for protecting parts of skin that cannot be kept under the shade.

You can find more information on the following websites: