Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and in Ireland we have the 14th highest rate in the world, which is surprising considering how little sunshine we feel we get!

The UV Index is still very high. The good news is that it is usually very treatable, particularly the most common type, BCC. The main risk factor is increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation – sunlight. Most of the damaging sunlight is picked up incidentally i.e. walking around doing our daily business. Only a third of it is intentional exposure. Most people are very vigilant with their sunblock application on their foreign holidays but less so at home in Ireland. For sun protection tips see Your Skin and the Sun.

There are three main types of skin cancer, melanoma (the most serious, malignant type), squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma – the most common. In all three, early detection leads to the best chance of cure.

You should be suspicious of any changes on your skin, including lips and ears, that last for more than about three weeks e.g. an open sore, red scaly patch, pink growth, shiny bump, scar like area or changing mole. Skin cancers may occur anywhere but are particularly common on the head and neck, and on men’s backs and women’s legs. For images see dermnetnz.com

The signs of melanoma include the appearance of a new mole, changes in an old mole e.g. uneven borders, dark black dots, increase in size, growth of a lump, change in colour or bleeding. It is important to get to know your existing moles and have any new or changing moles brought to the attention of a doctor immediately