15th December 2020

Skin Cancer: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Skin cancer is one of the world’s most regularly diagnosed forms of cancer and thousands of people in the UK are known to present with this dermatological illness every year. Recent findings indicate that melanoma, which is generally agreed to be the most serious type of skin cancer, is the fifth most common type of cancer in the country, with the last decade alone seeing an incredibly sharp rise in cases.

In most instances, skin cancer can be divided into two categories: melanoma, as mentioned above, and non-melanoma skin cancer. The latter of these is less severe and can itself be split into two distinct types, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

As with most cancers, early detection can be vital and can hold great sway over the success of a particular treatment and the patient’s eventual recovery. Read on to increase your understanding of skin cancer and to find out more about what to look out for!

The symptoms of skin cancer

We previously alluded to the fact that skin cancer could either be categorised as melanoma or a form of non-melanoma, so let’s take this opportunity to explore how the symptoms of these things can differ.


One of the most typical indications of melanoma is the arrival of a new mole or a change to an existing mole anywhere on your body. These usually appear on areas of the body that have been exposed to the sun and will be noticeably different in appearance, having grown in size, changed in colour or significantly altered in shape.
Melanoma does not discriminate by skin tone or type and can usually be identified when a mole starts to bleed or become uncomfortable.

The borders of the mole or moles in question tend to be jagged and irregular and some, such as nodular melanomas and lentigo maligna melanomas, are normally dark red or black in colour.

The biggest danger of types of melanoma is that they can grow down into the skin, which is something that can increase the risk of cancer spreading to other parts of the body.


Although not considered to be as dangerous as melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma can still cause great upset and discomfort to those affected and may become more serious if left untreated.
Basal cell carcinoma is characterised by the development of small white/pink lumps on areas of the body that have come into contact with ultraviolet (UV) radiation. These lumps can increase in size, grow into ulcers or start to bleed regularly. The emergence of flat, fleshy-coloured lesions that are reminiscent of scars can also be indicative of basal cell carcinoma.

The signs of squamous cell carcinoma aren’t too dissimilar from those mentioned above and can be identified by the development of unsightly red nodules on any region of the body. The legions associated with this form of skin cancer often feel scaly and rough whilst being incredibly tender to the touch.


There are also a handful of other conditions that could lead to the future development of some forms of skin cancer. These include Bowen’s disease, which is defined by the arrival of itchy, red patches on the surface of the skin and actinic keratoses, a condition which sometimes closely resembles Bowen’s disease and may be differentiated from this if these patches are found to be spiky or thick.

How is skin cancer caused?

Cancer of all forms is caused by mutations that occur within the DNA of our cells and this much is also true of skin cancer.

More specifically, skin cancer always begins in the cells that populate the epidermis (the skin’s top layer) and can either occur in the squamous cells, basal cells or melanocytes – the cells responsible for the production of melanin.

It is commonly believed that skin cancer normally originates due to overexposure to UV radiation, either from the sun or forms of artificial light such as that found in tanning beds.

As much of the damage inflicted on the skin cells can be found to originate following frequent contact with UV radiation, it’s always a good idea to use sunscreen and keep your body covered when you know that you will be spending a lot of time in the sun. This is also a good rule to follow in the winter, as the sun’s rays can still be harmful despite the colder conditions.

UV aside, research suggests that those with pale skin, blue eyes or a large number of existing moles are more at risk of developing skin cancer. A family history of the condition, as well as the taking of certain immune system-suppressing medications, can also play a major role here.

Dr Firas’s treatments for skin cancer

If you suspect that you may have skin cancer, it’s advisable to seek medical attention as soon as you can. In most instances, your GP will refer you to a dermatologist so that you can attain a more concrete diagnosis, and there is no medical professional better suited for this role than Dr Firas Al-Niaimi.

As one of London’s leading dermatologists, Dr Firas’s understanding of skin is unparalleled and he has several years of experience in the diagnosis and treatment of many different conditions and concerns.

In terms of skin cancer, Dr Firas specialises in Mohs surgery which is a form of treatment reserved for removing tumours and lesions from more sensitive areas of the body. It is frequently used to remove larger or recurring growths and allows the practitioner to cut away the affected skin layer by layer, examining this in real-time, to fully eliminate the presence of abnormal cells. This can be completed as a day procedure and can take anywhere between 2 to 6 hours.

Further treatment options for skin cancer can include more traditional forms of surgical excision and something known as cryotherapy, which focuses on freezing legions, lumps, nodules or growths until they fall off the body naturally.

For more information on how Dr Firas can help you manage the symptoms of skin cancer, visit his website today.

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