Are you worried that you or someone you know may have skin cancer? 

One of the most common skin cancers in the world is known as non-melanoma skin cancer and is a type of cancer that develops in the upper layers of the skin or areas that have been exposed to the sun. There is also melanoma skin cancer which can be very serious, according to the American Cancer Society, this form of cancer is more likely to grow and spread than other forms. 

Fortunately, if you catch skin cancer early, then you are much more likely to make a full recovery. 

Read on to discover what are the symptoms of skin cancer, the early warning signs to look out for and what are the most common risk factors associated with this disease.

What are the Most Common Signs of Skin Cancer?

According to the NHS, the most common sign of skin cancer is a lump, skin growths, or discoloured patches of skin. In most cases, lumps that are cancerous are red and firm and sometimes turn into ulcers. However, in some people, cancerous lumps can be flat and there may be scaly patches

Most commonly, skin cancer develops on sun exposed areas of skin such as the face, ears, hands, shoulders, upper chest and the back.

What are the Most Common Types of Skin Cancer?

There are two types of common skin cancers. These are:

1. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

This is also referred to as a rodent ulcer and develops in the cells that line the bottom of the epidermis. This type of skin cancer accounts for an estimated 75 in every 100 skin cancers. You can often see blood vessels in the lumps.

2. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

This type of skin cancer starts in the cells that line the top of the epidermis and accounts for around 20 in every 100 skin cancers.

What Causes Skin Cancer?

The main skin cancer comes from overexposure to UV light. This type of light comes from the sun and also from tanning beds and sunlamps. You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by protecting yourself from UV light – staying indoors at peak sun times and using suncream daily.  

Other common risk factors that increase your risk of developing skin cancer are:

  • Having non-melanoma skin cancer before 
  • Having a history of skin cancer in you family 
  • Having pale skin that burns easily 
  • Having a large number of moles or freckles 
  • Taking medicine that affects your immune system 
  • Having a medical condition that affects your immune system 

How to Diagnose Skin Cancer

If you are worried that you may have skin cancer and have one or more of the above skin cancer symptoms, then you should make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. 

During your appointment, your GP will look for signs of skin cancer and if they suspect that you may have this type of cancer, they will refer you to a dermatologist or skin specialist for further testing and a biopsy. 

It is worth noting that early detection is crucial with any form of cancer so you must seek medical advice as soon as you notice any symptoms that you suspect might be a sign of skin cancer. 

If you are unable to get an appointment with your GP and you want urgent advice, then online GP appointments allow you to speak to an NHS doctor from the comfort of your own home. 

In terms of treatments, surgery is the main treatment for skin cancer and involves removing the cancerous lump and sometimes some of the surrounding skin also. 

Other treatments that your doctor may suggest include radiotherapy, cryotherapy and anti-cancer creams. 

So... When should I see my doctor?

If you suspect you may have skin cancer, it is always a good idea to bring this up with your general practitioner. They will be able to carry out a full medical history and examination to determine the cause of your symptoms.

Please check your symptoms and visit your doctor if you are suspect you may have skin cancer. Early detection of skin cancer can be make the difference. 


This article is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Speak to a doctor if you have any questions about a medical condition without any delay.