Melanoma

Edited by Dr Claudia Pastides, 5th April 2019

If you are worried about your moles or any changes to your skin, it is important to discuss it with a doctor. Over 13,000 people per year in the UK are diagnosed with melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer.


Causes

Melanoma occurs due to faults in the DNA of skin cells, often because of:

  • Exposure to UV light (sunshine, tanning beds, sunlamps)
  • Increasing age


Risk factors

  • Having lots of moles, in particular large moles (over 5mm in diameter) or moles that are strangely shaped
  • Having a relative with melanoma
  • Being immunosuppressed
  • Having had skin cancer in the past
  • Being fair skinned / having blue eyes / having red or blonde hair / having lots of freckles


Typical Symptoms

Melanoma is initially diagnosed by looking at the mole’s characteristics and then confirmed by a biopsy.

The typical characteristics of melanoma are assessed using the ABCDE checklist:

  • Is the mole asymmetrical?
  • Does it have an irregular ragged border?
  • Does it have a variety of colours within it?
  • Is the diameter larger than 6mm?
  • Is it enlarging?

The checklist is not an exhaustive guide and if you have any worries about your moles, it is good to have them checked out.

For some photos of abnormal moles, have a look at https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/melanoma/pictures-abnormal-moles


Common Treatment

  • Surgery


When to speak to a doctor

Concerns about moles can often be initially discussed via a digital consultation. If the GP decides you need a face to face appointment, they will discuss what steps you can take next.

To speak to one of our Babylon GPs, download the app and create an account today.


Prevention

Melanoma can be managed and prevented by:

  • Taking care when out in the sun (using sun lotion, wearing hats, keeping covered up, spending time in the shade)
  • Keeping a close eye on your moles and speaking to a GP if you’ve noticed any changes to it


More information

NHS - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/melanoma-skin-cancer/