Skin Cancer 

What is skin cancer? 


There are two types of skin cancer, non-melanoma and melanoma. 

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world.   


Non-melanoma skin cancer refers to a group of cancers that slowly develop in the upper layers of the skin. 


Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can spread to other organs in the body. 

Risk factors of skin cancer  


Age – risk of developing skin cancer increases with age. 

Blue eyes


Red or blonde hair. 


Several freckles. 


Pale skin – that doesn’t tan easily. 


Moles - Having a larger number of moles


Damaged skin - Previously damaged your skin through sunburn or radiotherapy treatment. 


Weakened immune system - Having a condition or taking medicines that suppress your immune system. 

Family history – having a close relative who’s had melanoma skin cancer (non-melanoma skin cancer does not run in the family). 


More risks associated with skin cancer. 

How can you reduce your risk of skin cancer?  


UV light - Avoid overexposure to UV light. 

Sun protection - Protect yourself from sunburn (even going pink in the sun) by using a high-factor sunscreen and staying out of the sun at the hottest part of day. 

Avoid using sunbeds and sunlamps


Regularly check your skin for signs of skin cancer - Skin Self Examination Guide 

Common symptoms or signs of skin cancer  

Signs of skin cancer - Melanoma 

The main signs to look out for are: 

  • Moles – a new mole or change in the appearance of an existing mole. 

  • Getting bigger 

  • Changing shape 

  • Changing colour 

  • Bleeding or becoming crusty 

  • Itchy or sore 

The ABCDE checklist should help you tell the difference between a normal mole and a melanoma: 

  • Asymmetrical – melanomas usually have 2 very different halves and are an irregular shape. 

  • Border – melanomas usually have a notched or ragged border. 

  • Colours – melanomas will usually be a mix of 2 or more colours. 

  • Diameter – most melanomas are usually larger than 6mm in diameter. 

  • Enlargement or elevation – a mole that changes size over time is more likely to be a melanoma. 

Melanoma can appear anywhere on your body.  More signs and symptoms of skin cancer melamonas

Signs of skin cancer - Non- Melanoma 

The main signs to look out for are: 

  • Appearance of a lump or discoloured patch of skin that persists after a few weeks and slowly progresses over months or sometimes years. 

  • Non-melanoma skin cancer most often develops on areas of the skin regularly exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, hands, shoulders, upper chest and back. 


More signs and symptoms of skin cancer non-melamonas

Testing for skin cancer 

GP appointment – If you are concerned you have signs of skin cancer, make an appointment with your GP.  At the appointment your GP will ask about your symptoms and carry out an initial examination. 

Hospital referral – If your symptoms suggest you require further investigation, your GP can refer you to your local skin specialist (dermatologist) for further tests.   


Further test information Melanoma and Non-Melanoma

Who to contact for help or information​

GP Directory - locate your local GP


Local cancer support services - find support and information in our local cancer directory 


Cancer Care Map is a simple, online resource that aims to help you find cancer support services in your local area