Sun Awareness – know your ‘ABCDE’s’

Posted August 31, 2017

Skin cancer is currently the fifth most common cancer in Britain, and the second most common cancer in young adults aged between 15 and 34. Each year approximately 2,100 Britons die from the disease.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that arises from the cells in our skin that give us a suntan. If caught at an early stage it has a good prognosis. It presents as either a change in a long standing mole or a new mole.

A useful aid for checking moles is the ABCDE method which stands for:

A – Asymmetry
B – Border Irregularity
C – Colour variation and/or change
D – Diameter more than 6 mm (pencil eraser size) and/or change in diameter
E – Evolving – changing lesions

Moles which have changed at all in size, shape or colour should be checked immediately by your GP or a dermatologist.

Less serious changes include red, scaling or rough areas on the skin. This can represent badly sun damaged skin which, if left, can become more serious. It is best to seek early assessment as often it can be treated with simple creams prescribed by your doctor or a skin specialist.

The most common skin cancer is Basal Cell Carcinoma but thankfully it is the least serious. It tends to present as a shiny, pearly edged area that often goes through a cycle of bleeding, crusting and healing. They grow very slowly and there are many effective forms of treatment so again it is better to visit your GP as early as possible. An experienced medical professional is still the best way to be safe although technology is evolving all the time and no doubt in the future we will have reliable and accurate computer analysis but it isn’t quite here yet.

Overall, the chances of something serious are low and should not prevent you from enjoying the sun safely. Good advice is to use sun cream of at least SPF 15 reapplied regularly, wear a long sleeved shirt and broad brimmed hat and be especially careful between the hours of 11am to 3pm when the sun is at its strongest.

Mr Gerard Lambe is a Consultant Plastic Surgeon at The Christie Clinic. For more information or to book an appointment please call 0161 918 7296.