About Melanoma

Melanoma is not only the most deadly type of cancer of the skin but also the hardest to detect, however if it is recognised and treated early, it is nearly 100% curable. If not, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal.

Melanoma may be less common than other skin cancers, however it is much more dangerous if not found early.

Melanoma is the 5th most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 4% of all new cancer cases. Around 16,200 new melanoma cases are diagnosed in the UK every year, that’s 44 every day (2015-2017).

Over the last decade, melanoma incidence rates have increased by almost two-fifths (38%) in the UK. Rates in females have increased by almost a third (30%), and rates in males have increased by almost half (47%) (2015-2017).

According to the World Health Organisation it is projected that in 2025, 19,513 people in the UK are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma, and approximately 3,119 people will die as a result.

Melanoma does not discriminate by age, race, or gender; everyone is at varying degrees of risk. Approximately 49% of melanoma cases in the UK are in females, and 51% are in males. In women, the most common site for melanoma is on the legs, and in men on the chest and back.

The seven point checklist for suspected melanoma

Major signs


If an existing mole gets larger or a new one is growing.


If the mole has an irregular outline.


If the colours are mixed shades of brown or black.

Minor signs


If the mole is bigger than the blunt end of a pencil.


If it is inflamed or has a reddish edge.


If it is bleeding, oozing or crusting.


If it starts to feel different: for example, itching or painful.


Naevi (Larger/irregular moles)

People with a strong family history of melanoma or who have a high number of large moles are at very high risk. Fortunately, very few people fall into this category. Large numbers of benign and dysplastic naevi are highly significant risk factors, with risk directly proportional to the number of naevi.

Skin type

Six skin types have been identified according to the ability of the skin to tan. People with skin types 1 and 2 are at greatest risk of developing malignant Melanoma, whereas people with naturally occurring brown or black skin have a much lower risk as the presence of high amounts of melanin in their skin acts as a shield, blocking the transmission of UV radiation.

Amelanotic melanoma

It is worth mentioning that, although rare, there are certain melanomas that may have no colour at all. These are referred to as ‘amelanotic’ melanomas, because they are conspicuously missing melanin; the dark pigment that gives most moles and melanomas their colour.

These unpigmented melanomas may be pinkish-looking, reddish, purple, normal skin colour or essentially clear and colourless.

Because it also shows no or little pigment, an amelanotic melanoma can be easily missed, even by experts. Further to this, presentation by patients and diagnosis by doctors and specialists is frequently delayed. Our advice is that apart from the typical changes usually associated with melanoma, any recent or odd looking skin lesions need to be checked out as soon as possible.

Sunburn and Melanoma

Although you don’t have to burn to contract melanoma, there is increasing evidence that excessive sun exposure, and particularly sunburn, when aged under 15 is a major risk factor for skin cancer in later life.

Protection of the skin of children and adolescents is therefore particularly important. Because of this, sunburn should be avoided by individuals of ALL ages.

All cancers are caused by damage to the DNA inside cells. This can be inherited in the form of genetic mutations, but most commonly, it builds up over a lifetime and is caused by environmental influences. DNA damage causes the cell to grow out of control, leading to a tumor. Melanoma is usually caused by damage from UV light from the sun, however sunbeds can also be a determining factor.

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