The majority of Britons are unaware of skin cancer signs

Sunday, June 21, 2015

More than three quarters of Britons have said that they wouldn’t recognise the signs of skin cancer. With 2,100 deaths each year in the UK, it may be surprising to some that so many of us are not aware of the symptoms.

According to BBC News, since the 1960s the rates of skin cancer have continued to increase and as a result the increase in cheaper package holidays abroad and the growing popularity of outdoor activities are thought to be responsible.

With skin cancer being one of the most common cancers in the world and at a time of year when many of us may be spending more time outside it can be important to know the signs. 

Type of skin cancer

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


This is a type of skin cancer that can spread to other parts of the body, such as the organs. This is commonly identified through the appearance of a new mole or a change to an existing mole.

In the majority of cases the melanoma will have an irregular shape and are more than one colour. Sometimes they are larger than normal moles and may be itchy or bleed.

The NHS has developed an ‘ABCDE’ checklist to help you tell the difference between a normal mole and a melanoma, you can watch their visual guide to moles.   


This refers to types of skin cancer that develop slowly in the upper layers of skin. The first sign of non-melanoma skin cancer usually is the appearance a lump or patch of skin that still hasn’t healed after a few weeks, this cancerous lump can be red and firm whilst cancerous patches may be flat and scaly in appearance.

Basal cell carcinoma (accounting for about 75% of skin cancers) and squamous cell carcinoma (accounting for around 20% of skin cancers) are the two most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer. Find out more about the symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer

If you do notice any skin abnormalities that haven’t healed after four weeks the NHS recommends booking an appointment to see your GP in case it is something serious.  

What are the causes of skin cancer?

According to Macmillan Cancer Support, ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun is the main environmental cause of most skin cancers. The UV light damages skin cells which then can cause skin cancer and with so many of us living longer, our lifetime exposure to sun is greatly increased.

A lifetime of sun exposure can be significant in the development of squamous cell cancers.  

People who work outside, such as builders or farmers, can also be at great risk to skin cancer because they are exposed to sun for long periods of time which means they can be more susceptible to developing squamous cell or basal cell cancers.  

Macmillan also state that those who are fair-skinned who tend to go red or freckle in the sun can be most at risk to skin cancer. If you have been over exposed to the sun as a child or young adult you may also be at great risk to developing skin cancer which may not show up until later in life – usually after the age of 40.    

Cancer Cover with Health for You

With many people developing various types of cancer, for example in 2011 331,487 people in the UK were diagnosed with cancer, it is easy to become concerned about your health.

As part of the various modular options within our health insurance policy ‘Health for You’ we can look to cover you for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

To find out more, visit our health insurance cover options page.   


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