Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the world, despite the fact that it’s easy to protect against by staying safe in the sun. Skin cancer is easily treatable if caught early.

Basal cell car cinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. It can occur all over the body, but is mostly localized in the head and neck area. Often this will be a wound that won’t heal or a lump (tumor) that is bleeding or oozing. The area may be flat, red and scaly.

Squamous cell car cinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma most often occurs in areas that have been exposed to sunlight, such as the face, hands and scalp. Squamous cell carcinoma appears as a nodule that grows rapidly and scabs over. The lump may be tender and oozing. Squamous cell cancer can spread throughout the body, especially if it is located on the lips, ears or occurs in patients with a compromised immune system.

Actinic keratosis is one of the most common forms of skin damage and most often occurs on the face, ears, hands and scalp, where the skin is most exposed to the sun’s rays. Actinic keratosis is a superficial skin condition that can be just a single spot or cover larger areas of skin. They usually appear as small red or brownish spots, which may be scaly on the surface. They can also look leathery or feel rough. Actinic keratosis is a sign of sun damage and must be treated as it can develop into squamous cell carcinoma.

Malignant melanoma (melanoma ) is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It can occur at any age, unlike the other 3 types of skin cancer, which are more common in older people. The most common sign of melanoma is that an existing or new mole changes size, shape, color, or becomes uneven or thicker. Melanoma can spread throughout the body and needs to be treated as soon as possible. If you suspect or have concerns about a mole, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Check the skin, paying special attention to wounds and bumps such as:

  • Grows, changes color and/or shape
  • Stands out from your other moles, sores or bumps
  • Are asymmetrical or uneven around the edges
  • Scales
  • Are multicolored
  • Scratching
  • Bleeding or fluid
  • Not healing


Check your skin regularly and seek medical attention if there are any suspicious skin changes. The sooner you’re treated, the better.

Who is at risk of getting skin cancer

Skin cancer can be fatal for anyone of any age, but it most commonly affects people over 50 and those who have spent a lot of time in the sun throughout their lives.

You have an increased risk of getting skin cancer if you:

  • Have fair skin or burn easily in the sun
  • Sunburned as a child
  • Spent a lot of time in the sun for a long time – for work or leisure
  • Often been exposed to strong sunlight e.g. on sun holidays
  • Goes to a tanning salon or has gone to a tanning salon in the past
  • Has more than 50 moles
  • Have relatives who have died from skin cancer
  • Is over 50 years old
  • Have undergone an organ transplant


Skin cancer is treatable and the earlier it’s detected, the better the chances of a full recovery.

The golden rules are:

  • Don’t ignore symptoms in the hope that they will go away
  • Don’t wait to see how things develop and try not to treat yourself
  • Don’t assume it’s probably nothing serious
  • Remember that skin changes are also important to check


And above all, don’t be afraid to make an appointment with your doctor if you have any doubts about a skin condition

Fact box

Follow these 3 tips to sunbathe safely:

  • Seek shade between 12-15. The sun’s UV radiation is strongest during this time
  • If you can’t be in the shade, a sun hat with a wide brim and a long-sleeved T-shirt is the best protection against the sun’s UV radiation. There are clothes with built-in UV protection for both adults and children
  • Use sunscreen where your body is not covered by clothing. Use factor 15 in the UK and factor 30 in countries where the sun is stronger