There are three main types of skin cancer:


  • Basal cell carcinoma – a type of non-melanoma skin cancer, often appearing as a sore or shiny bump.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma – also a non-melanoma skin cancer, looks like a sore or wart that won't heal.

  • Melanoma – starts as a changing mole, and can spread very fast.


Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) accounts for  75% of skin cancers and is also easily treated. 

It usually appears as a red or pink lump, although it can be pearly-white or 'waxy' looking and may contain visible blood vessels. The discoloured patch of skin is flat and scaly and can have either a flesh-coloured or brown appearance. 

BCCs can develop anywhere on the body, but usually appear on parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun. Lumps usually develop on the face, ears and neck, while the discoloured skin patches usually develop on the chest and back. 


Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) or Bowen's disease accounts for 20%  of skin cancers and is usually easily treated. Bowen's disease can appear anywhere on the skin, especially the trunk, arms or legs. 

The main sign is a red, scaly patch on the skin that is 1-3 cm in diameter and which may or may not be itchy. The affected skin can be red and sore and may bleed and scab.

It's important to get a proper diagnosis, as SCC or Bowen's disease can look like benign conditions such as psoriasis or eczema.


Melanoma is the least common but most serious type of skin cancer.  It usually starts out as a new mole or a rapidly changing mole. It can appear anywhere on the body, but most often on the back, legs, arms and face. Most melanomas have an irregular shape and more than one colour.  


Because it can spread very quickly, it's really important to get your moles checked regularly. Caught early, melanoma is easily treated but caught late it can be fatal.


Melanoma is a cancer of the melanocytes, which are cells that produce a pigment called melanin. Melanin gives colour to the skin, hair and eyes. Melanocytes can also form moles, where melanomas can develop. Although most moles do not become cancerous, it's important to spot the rare ones that do.




  • Over the last thirty years, melanoma rates in Great Britain have risen faster than any of the current top ten cancers.

  • Around 12,800 cases  were diagnosed in 2010 in the UK.

  • Melanoma is disproportionately high in younger adults and is the second most common cancer for those aged 15 to 34.

  • Melanoma is almost twice as common in young women as in young men, but more men die from it.

  • People from the most affluent areas are more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma.

What is the best way to prevent and detect melanoma?


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