What is Melanoma?

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 of Melanoma

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 of Melanoma

  • 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

Symptoms of Melanoma

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 here.

Treating Melanoma

Surgery

When to speak to a doctor

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

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

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.