Skin cancer is the out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis, the outermost skin layer, caused by unrepaired DNA damage that triggers mutations. Mutations can cause skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours. The main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma(BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). Melanoma skin cancer is the 5th most common cancer in the UK. Around 16,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year.
The two main causes of skin cancer are the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and the use of UV tanning machines. The good news is that if skin cancer is caught early, a dermatologist can often treat it with little or no scarring and a decent chance of eliminating it entirely. Often, skin cancer can be detected at a precancerous stage, before it has become a full-blown skin cancer or penetrated below the surface of the skin.
More than 1 in 4 skin cancer cases are diagnosed in people under 50, which is unusually early compared with most other types of cancer. Over recent years, skin cancer has become much more common in the UK. This is thought to be the result of increased exposure to intense sunlight while on holiday abroad.
If left untreated or detected at a late stage, melanoma can frequently spread to other parts of the body (metastasis), which makes curative treatment much less successful.