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How to spot the signs of skin cancer as holidays blamed for surge in cases

Skin cancer diagnoses have hit a record high in the UK, and a leading charity has suggested the boom of cheap package holidays in the 1960s may be to blame.

A staggering 17,500 people are now diagnosed each year in the UK, according to Cancer Research, and the charity expects this to increase by 50% in the next 20 years.

‘The rise in rates in over-55s is likely to be linked to trends to have tanned skin and the cheap package holiday boom dating from the 1960s before people became more aware of skin cancer,’ the charity said.

It’s expected that a huge 26,500 of us will be receiving a skin cancer diagnosis each year by 2040, meaning we need to be diligent when it comes to spotting the warning signs.

Yes, we might live in the UK where it’s miserable most days, but the sun can still do significant damage, whether you’re out and about here or abroad.

Symptoms of melanoma include a change to a mole, freckle or a normal patch of skin, but how do we know if it’s something to be concerned about?

Dr Sagar Patel, a dermatology specialist at MyHealthcare Clinic, said: ‘Unfortunately, the UK is way behind countries such as Australia and the United States when it comes to awareness of moles.

‘While regular mole-mapping is very common in other parts of the world, many Brits simply ignore changes in their skin.

‘Granted, we don’t have the same warm climate, but you don’t need high temperatures to be exposed to harmful UV rays that can increase the chances of a mole becoming cancerous.’

So it’s clearly important to check our skin regularly, but how?

Dr Sagar has a good acronym for guiding your frequent checks of your skin.

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‘This simple guide is used by skin specialists to help patients understand what they should be looking out for,’ he said.

  • ‘A – asymmetry, when half the mole doesn’t match the other
  • ‘B – border, when the outline of the mole is irregular, ragged or blurred
  • ‘C – colour, when it varies throughout and/or there appears to be no uniform colour
  • ‘D – diameter, if it’s greater than 6mm
  • ‘E – evolving, or changes in the mole.

‘If you check your moles for these five points it can help you stay on top of any issues.

‘But there is no substitute for having an appointment with a specialist, who will examine your skin and discuss any area of concern.’

Dr Sagar also wants to bust a couple of common myths you might be taking as truth.

He said that a mole doesn’t have to be itchy or bleeding to warrant a check up, there are other more subtle changes or sometimes no symptoms at all.

That being said sometimes moles will just change a little over the years.

‘Moles can change over time,’ Dr Sagar said, ‘becoming raised and altering in colour, shape and size. Some even disappear altogether,’ said Dr Sagar.

‘This is where being aware of your skin is key, as changes that occur over months rather than years – moles becoming darker quickly – are definitely worth getting looked at as a matter of urgency.’

Another myth is that skin cancer affects those with a fair complexion more than someone with darker skin – and this is simply not true.

He said: ‘Yes, those with a darker complexion are slightly more protected from the sun than those who are very fair.

‘But it doesn’t mean they can’t be exposed to enough UV rays to damage the skin cells and increase the likelihood of developing a melanoma.’

Lastly it’s also important to check all of our skin, not just our moles, for any changes. So, go forth and get checking.

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  • Posted on July 7, 2023