Skin cancer symptoms: Three easily missed signs of the deadly condition

Skin cancer symptoms: Three easily missed signs of the deadly condition


Skin cancer symptoms are usually recognised as a change to a mole, but basal cell carcinoma skin cancer can appear on the skin in a different way. Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that most often develops on areas of skin exposed to the sun. It’s considered the most common form of skin cancer, but not all of its symptoms are easy to spot.


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Mayo Clinic says basal cell carcinoma may appear as:

  • A pearly or waxy bump
  • A flat, flesh-coloured or brown scar-like lesion
  • A bleeding or scabbing sore that heals and returns

These symptoms may be mistaken for other, less serious conditions, but if you experience any of these you should always contact your GP to get checked out.

What causes basal cell carcinoma?

The most common cause is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or from sunbeds.

The British Skin Foundation says basal cell carcinoma mainly affects fair skinned adults, but other skin types are also at risk.

Those with the highest risk of developing it are:

  • People with pale skin who burn easily and rarely tan (generally with light coloured or red hair, although some may have dark hair but still have fair skin).
  • Those who have had a lot of exposure to the sun, such as people with outdoor hobbies or outdoor workers, and people who have lived in sunny climates.
  • People who have used sun beds or have regularly sunbathed.
  • People who have previously had a basal cell carcinoma.

How to prevent basal cell carcinoma

The British Skin Foundation also offers some sun safety tips to help prevent basal cell carcinoma appearing:

  • Protect your skin with clothing, and don’t forget to wear a hat that protects your face, neck and ears, and a pair of UV protective sunglasses.
  • Spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm when it’s sunny. Step out of the sun before your skin has a chance to redden or burn.
  • When choosing a sunscreen look for a high protection SPF (SPF 30 or more) to protect against UVB, and the UVA circle logo and/or 4 or 5 UVA stars to protect against UVA. Apply plenty of sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun, and reapply every two hours and straight after swimming and towel-drying.
  • Keep babies and young children out of direct sunlight.
  • The British Association of Dermatologists recommends that you tell your doctor about any changes to a mole or patch of skin. If your GP is concerned about your skin, make sure you see a Consultant Dermatologist – an expert in diagnosing skin cancer. Your doctor can refer you for free through the NHS.
  • Sunscreens should not be used as an alternative to clothing and shade, rather they offer additional protection. No sunscreen will provide 100 percent protection.
  • It may be worth taking Vitamin D supplement tablets (available from health food stores) as strictly avoiding sunlight can reduce Vitamin D levels.


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Other types of skin cancer

The appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole can be a symptom of melanoma skin cancer.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can spread to other organs in the body.

The NHS says melanoma can happen anywhere on the body, but the most commonly affected areas are the back in men and the legs in women.

The health body adds: “Melanomas are uncommon in areas that are protected from sun exposure, such as the buttocks and the scalp.

“In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than one colour.

“The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed.

“Look out for a mole that gradually changes shape, size or colour.”

If you’re worried you have symptoms of cancer you should still contact your GP, despite current UK lockdown measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Cancer Research UK advises: “Your GP can talk to you on the telephone or online. They will ask about your symptoms and tell you if you need to go in to see them or another GP.”

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