Susanna Daniels MRPharmS
CEO, Melanoma Focus
In the UK, 1 in 36 men and 1 in 47 women will be diagnosed with melanoma in their lifetime. The most common areas affected in women are the legs, while in men, it is usually the back.
About 86% of melanomas are preventable
Fortunately, melanoma is largely preventable. Sun and sunbed exposure, as well as a skin type that burns easily, are the main risk factors. It is estimated that about 9 in 10 cases can be avoided by being smart about sun safety.
Early detection and common indications
Early detection is key to successfully treating melanoma. The most common signs to look out for are a mole or lesion that is:
- Changed (such as a change in shape colour, bleeding or itching): It is new or seems to have changed since you last saw it (don’t look for detail; you can see it has changed just by glancing at the lesion, that’s enough).
- Not going away: Once a new lesion has appeared, it remains on the skin for longer than 6–8 weeks.
- Odd (the most crucial test): It simply looks strange, worries you or seems to be different from other lesions on your skin.
To help detect any changes in your moles, get into the habit of checking your skin once a month. You may need a mirror or someone to help you check hard-to-see areas such as your scalp, back, between your fingers and toes and under the arms. Take photos to help you monitor.
To help detect any changes in your moles, get into the habit of checking your skin once a month.
Contact your GP
If you have any concerns, contact your GP. They may ask you to send a picture via a secure messaging system for a specialist dermatologist to review. They may use a dermatoscope — a type of magnifying tool to view the deeper layers of the skin.
Treatment options for melanoma
If caught at an early stage, when you may feel completely well and have no other symptoms, it is treated through surgery, and the cure rate is very high. This is done under a local anaesthetic, so you shouldn’t feel any pain. In many cases, it won’t be a melanoma, but it is important to get checked as there are more treatments if caught early. If the melanoma has spread, there are more modern treatment options, such as immunotherapy and targeted therapies.
Find out more about Melanoma