Be Skin Cancer Aware


We do not get much sunshine in Northern Ireland yet the incidence of skin cancer is rising fast. The number of people developing it is doubling in Northern Ireland every decade. Most skin cancers are caused by too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation found in sunlight and sun-beds. These cancers could be prevented if we protect ourselves from over exposure to these rays.

There are two main types of skin cancer- malignant melanoma which is the most serious type of skin cancer and Non-melanoma skin cancer which is more easily treated and more common.

Malignant melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and can spread to other parts of the body. It usually develops in cells in the outer layer of the skin and the first visible signs of this may be a change in the look or feel of a mole. In 2012, 195 cases of malignant melanoma were diagnosed in women and 151 in men in Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, 2016). The incidence of malignant melanoma is now 4 times higher than 30 years ago, and is predicted to continue to increase. If malignant melanoma is detected and treated early, it can be cured, but is much more difficult to manage if left too long.

Some people are more likely than others to develop skin cancer. These people tend to have one or more of the following- fair skin that burns easily, lots of moles or freckles, a history of sunburn, red or fair hair, light coloured eyes, a personal or family history of skin cancer.

Early detection is extremely important. Look out for any changes like in the photograph below and think ABCDE –
Asymmetry - the two halves of the area may differ in shape and not look the same
Border - the edges of the area may be irregular or blurred
Colour - this may be uneven. Different shades may be seen
Diameter - most melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter.
Expert - if in doubt, check it out with your GP even if the changes are not similar to those stated.

Always remember to protect your skin too. Remember to “Slip, slap and slop”!
Always seek the shade, Slip on a long sleeved top, slop on the sun-cream, SPF30 or more is recommended and apply regularly, and slap on a wide brimmed hat.

Most skin changes are not caused by cancer, but if concerned about skin changes, contact your GP to be assessed. If your GP is concerned a referral will be made to a specialist.

James, a local farmer, who attended the dermatology clinic said, “I noticed a mole getting darker and changing shape over the last few months. It was cut off and the doctor said that since it was got early the outlook was great. I would encourage anyone who sees any new moles appearing or moles changing to see their GP. Don’t put it off!”

Pictured from left to right Michelle Gibson (Speciality Doctor Plastic Surgery), Roisin Hill (Clinical Nurse Specialist), Sheena Stothers (Complex Skin Cancer CNS) and David Alderdice(Consultant Dermatologist).