Skin Cancer Awareness Month

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and following a period of hot weather in Wales during the month, Macmillan Cancer Support is encouraging people to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease.

There are two main types of skin cancer: melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, and cases of melanoma in Wales have increased by 58.3% since 2003-2005.

There are currently over 5,100 people living with malignant melanoma in Wales and around 690 new cases each year.

Non-melanoma is the most common type of cancer in the UK, with around 136,000 cases diagnosed in the UK each year.

However, it is unlikely to spread, very treatable and the earlier it is diagnosed the easier it is to treat.

Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun, which may include long term exposure, or short periods of intense sun exposure and burning. Using sunbeds can also increase the risk.

It is estimated that around 675 cases of skin cancer in Wales could be prevented by staying safe in the sun.

Anthony Lorton, Macmillan Skin Cancer Nurse Specialist at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said:

“It’s that time of year when the sun is getting stronger, and we all need to be thinking about protecting ourselves from the sun’s harmful radiation.

“It is equally important to be regularly checking the skin for any new or changing moles and sores, and seeing your doctor with any changes or concerns, so that potential skin cancers are identified early.”

You should visit your doctor if you have

  • a spot or sore that doesn’t heal within 4 weeks
  • a spot or sore that hurts, is itching, crusty, scabs over, or bleeds for more than 4 weeks
  • areas where the skin has broken down (an ulcer) and doesn’t heal within 4 weeks

Moles should also be regularly checked. See your doctor straight away if you have a new mole or skin change. Or you have a mole that:

  • is changing in size, shape or colour
  • is not symmetrical
  • has a border with jagged edges
  • is more than one colour
  • is wider than 6mm (about the size of the blunt end of a pencil)
  • tingles or itches
  • bleeds or is crusty

Anthony added:

“Often people with these symptoms do not have skin cancer.

“But with the number of people being diagnosed on the increase, it is important to be vigilant and aware of your own body and skin so you can notice any changes quickly.

“In our clinics, we undertake full-body skin examinations, and give advice on sun protection, so that people can continue to safely enjoy the good weather and sunny holidays.”

If you have questions about skin cancer or protecting yourself against the sun, you can drop in to your nearest Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Centre, which you can find at www.macmillan.org.uk/inyourarea.

If you need support or just want someone to talk to, call Macmillan Cancer Support free on 0808 808 00 00 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk.