There are two main types of skin cancer; melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and accounts for almost 3% of all newly diagnosed cancers each year. In the UK, there are over 4,000 new cases of melanoma in men, and nearly 5,000 new cases in women each year. Melanoma (also known as malignant melanoma) is a cancer that develops from cells called melanocytes, which are found in the outer layer of our skin. Melanocytes produce melanin, a pigment that helps protect the deeper layers of our skin from the harmful effects of the sun. This pigment appears as a suntan, which is a sign of damaged skin and a possible skin cancer warning sign. Melanomas often start in moles, but they can also develop elsewhere on the skin. In rare cases, melanomas can occur in the eye, under the fingernails or in other parts of the body not usually exposed to the sun.
Those who have a higher risk of developing melanoma usually have one or more of the following factors: a history of childhood sunburn, prolonged exposure to UV rays, fair skin, outdoor-related work and hobbies, multiple atypical moles, previous history of skin cancer or melanoma, a family history of skin cancer or melanoma or a history of immunosuppression.
The Belfast Skin Clinic is run by a team of consultant dermatologists who specialise in mole checks and treating skin cancer.