Can you spot the deadly moles from the harmless ones? The skin cancer signs you must never ignore – The Sun | The Sun

MOST spots on the skin are nothing to worry about.

But others can cause cancer and be deadly if not detected and treated early enough.

That especially goes for men, who are almost twice as likely to die from skin cancer than women, according to the NHS. 

It’s no surprise, considering 31 per cent of blokes admit to not wearing sunscreen, compared to just 15 per cent of women. 

Men also score much lower when it comes to recognising signs of skin cancer. 

Figures from Melanoma Focus revealed only 58 per cent of men knew a change in an existing mole could be a red flag, while just 57 per cent clocked one with an uneven edge could mean trouble (women scored 81 and 78 per cent respectively).

With skin cancer death rates rising dramatically, it's time to put your skin cancer knowledge to the test and ask yourself: Would you know if you were developing skin cancer? Can you tell the dangerous moles from the harmless?


“It’s important to know your body and become familiar with your moles and skin and what they look like, so you will recognise if something changes,” Dr Philippa Kaye tells Sun Health.

“See a doctor if you notice a mole is changing, which can be in colour, size, appearance but also in sensation – so if a mole is bleeding, crusty or becomes sore or itchy.”

Your GP will likely use the ABCDE mnemonic to help tell if a mole is cancerous or not, and you can use it at home too.

Get a loved one to help you check your WHOLE body – including the bits you can’t see – and don’t forget to return the favour!

  • Asymmetrical – melanomas usually have two 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 two 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

“Depending on what your GP thinks, they may refer you on to a dermatologist on a suspected cancer wait,” says Dr Philippa.

“Treatment generally involves surgical removal [often under local anaesthetic]. Further treatment may be needed if it has spread.”

Caught early, skin cancer is often treated successfully, but ultimately, prevention is always best.

“Use SPF 30 sunscreen and no sun beds” says Dr Philippa, and Dr Thuva Amuthan, founder of Dr Derme Skin and Aesthetics Clinic agrees. 

“Sun exposure from your job and habits like sunbathing or tanning beds can put you at higher risk of skin cancers," he explains. 

“Regularly check your skin for any changes and wear a good sun block, hat and sunglasses to reduce your risk."

And if in doubt, ring your doc.

Dr Philippa adds: “If you are concerned, get it checked!”

Dermatologist Dr Hiba Injibar recently told Sun Health you should avoid getting a pre-holiday base tan at all costs – your bronzed skin won't protect you from sun damage once you're under the blazing rays of your getaway.



There are three major types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Caught early, skin cancer has a good survival rate – 90 per cent if the disease is detected at stage one. And experts estimate 86 per cent of cases are preventable.

But millions of Brits are putting their lives at risk, with one in ten – including kids as young as eight – using sunbeds.

Exposure to UV light from the sun or tanning beds is usually the reason why people develop skin cancer.

Using a sunbed before the age of 35 increases your chance of developing melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – by a horrific 87 per cent.

That's why The Sun's Fabulous launched the Dying For A Tan campaign, to raise awareness of the dangers sunbeds pose.

The most common sign of skin cancer is a change to a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin.

Here, we share the symptoms you need to know – to spot the signs of the three most common skin cancers.


When it comes to moles, they are usually about a quarter of an inch in size, evenly coloured brown, tan or black and can be flat or raised.

Some are present at birth, but most appear as children or young adults and once they've developed, they usually stay the same size, shape and colour.

The most important warning sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin or when a mole changes in appearance.

Superficial spreading melanoma

Around 70 per cent of all melanoma cases in the UK are superficial spreading melanomas.

They're more common in people with pale skin and freckles, and much less common in darker skinned people.

They initially tend to grow outwards rather than downwards, so don't pose a problem.

However, if they grow downwards into the deeper layers of skin, they can spread to other parts of the body.

Therefore, you should see your GP if you have a mole that's getting bigger, particularly if it has an irregular edge.

Nodular melanoma

Nodular melanomas are a faster-developing type of melanoma that can quickly grow downwards into the deeper layers of skin if not removed.

They usually appear as a changing lump on the skin which might be black to red in colour.

Often nodular melanomas grow on previously normal skin and most commonly occur on the head and neck, chest or back.

A common symptom is bleeding or oozing.

Lentigo maligna melanoma

These most commonly affect older people, particularly those who've spent a lot of time outdoors.

They develop slowly over a number of years and appear in areas that are often exposed to the sun, such as the face.

To start with, lentigo maligna melanomas are flat and develop sideways in the surface layers of skin.

They look like a freckle but they're usually larger, darker and stand out more than a normal freckle.

They can gradually get bigger and may change shape and at a later stage, they may grow downwards into the deeper layers of skin and can form lumps.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is sometimes referred to as a rodent ulcer.

The disease affects the outermost layers of cells in the skin.

Around 75 per cent of all skin cancers are BCCs, which are typically slow-growing and almost never spread to other parts of the body.

If treated at an early stage, this form of skin cancer is usually completely cured.

But if they do become more aggressive, BCCs may spread into the deeper layers of the skin and into the bones – which can make treating it more difficult.

Signs of BCCs, include a skin growth that:

  • Looks smooth and pearly
  • Seems waxy
  • Looks like a firm, red lump
  • Sometimes bleeds
  • Develops a scab or crust
  • Never completely heals
  • Is itchy
  • Looks like a flat red spot and is scaly and crusty
  • Develops into a painless ulcer

Squamous cell carcinoma

Another form of non-melanoma, skin cancer, is squamous cell carcinoma.

This is a cancer of the keratinocyte cells which are in the outer layer of the skin.

These cells are mainly found on the face, neck, bald scalps, arms, backs of hands and lower legs.

It is the second most common type of skin cancer and may:

  • Appear scaly
  • Have a hard, crusty cap
  • Raised skin
  • Tender to touch
  • Bleed sometimes

When found early, skin cancer can often be treated successfully.

How skin cancer is treated depends on a few factors.

Types of treatment can depend on the type of skin cancer, how far it's spread, where the cancer is and what stage it’s at.

The main treatment for skin cancer is surgery to remove it from the affected area.

Usually, the surgery carried out is minor and carried out under local anaesthetic.


Answers to the mole test:

The harmless moles are: 4 and 5.

The dangerous ones are: 1. Basal cell carcinoma 2. BCC on the trunk 3. Malignant melanoma on the neck 6. Mixed melanoma

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