What is melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. It is relatively rare and is certainly not the commonest type of cancer in the UK. However, the number of patients diagnosed with melanoma every year is on the rise. As with all other skin cancers this commonly affects older people. However, younger patients may also be affected. If it is treated early, the outlook is good. 

What causes melanoma?

Melanoma is a cancer of the pigment cells of the skin. It occurs when these pigment cells (melanocytes) start to divide uncontrollably and in a haphazard manner.

The main risk factor is the exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sunlight. In approximately one third of patients with melanoma, there has been a previous mole (melanocytic naevus) at this location.

What are the symptoms?

  • A mole which is changing in size, shape or colour (see mole screening)
  • Usually painless and does not itch

How can melanoma be treated?

  • Surgery is the first line of treatment.

What can you do?

Prevention is better than cure- therefore:

  • Make sure you apply plenty of sunscreen when going out into the sun
  • Avoid regular excessive sun exposure
  • Check your skin regularly, identify moles and monitor any changes and seek help if you notice any changes in size, colour or shape of a mole
  • Have any new or suspicious lumps or patches checked

For more sources of information/help click on the links below: