When you should get a skin check
The best criterion is - if it’s changing, get it checked.
If a spot changes in shape, size, colour, or if it starts to itch or bleed and doesn’t heal properly, it should be investigated further. New moles or growths should also be monitored closely.
The ABCD rule for skin cancer checks
Melanoma can have any one of the following features:
Asymmetry - look for spots that lack symmetry. That is, if a line was drawn through the middle, the two sides would not match up
Border - a spot with a spreading or irregular edge (notched)
Colour - blotchy spots with a number of colours such as black, blue, red, white and/or grey
Diameter - look for spots that are getting bigger
The EFG detection guide
The EFG rule was created to improve detection of nodular melanoma which does not meet the ABCD criteria. These melanomas often begin as a red nodule. While their appearance can be mistaken for a pimple, they are much firmer to touch. Nodular melanoma usually has all three of the following features:
Growing for more than a month
Types of skin cancer
The three most common types of skin cancer are:
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. These are often changing Brown or Black spots and can occur anywhere on the body, not just on the sun exposed areas.
Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC) are the most common type of skin cancer. They usually occur on the face, neck or upper back. It is extremely rare for these tumours to spread through your body. They do keep growing however, and can invade locally so they need to be removed.
Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCC) are found in the sun exposed areas such as face, arms and lower legs. They have some risk of spreading to other parts of the body, but a lot less than Melanoma. These are often rough, raised or crusted lesions.
Sunspots (or Solar Keratoses) are rough patches which are usually found on the face and arms, and have potential to develop into Squamous Cell Carcinomas. They are often treated by ‘freezing’ or ‘burning’ them off.
Types of Moles
Moles come in many shapes and sizes and are a collection of pigment cells (Melanocytes). They are different to freckles.
Melanoma is a cancer of the pigment cells. These are the dangerous lesions that need to be removed urgently.
Atypical moles or Dysplastic naevi are lesions that look unusual but aren’t cancers. On looking at them they are hard to tell apart from Melanomas, and often need to be sampled and examined under the microscope. They may have an irregular shape, be large, or have different colours through the lesion.
Atypical Mole syndrome is a term used to describe people who have hundreds of moles as well as atypical moles. These people do have an increased risk of developing a melanoma.
Intradermal naevi (IDN) are raised up moles that are safe. It’s usual that these lesions have been there for a long time and don’t change.
Congenital naevi are lesions that have been present since about the time of birth. They can vary in size from a few millimeters to most of your back. These lesions are also generally safe; only the very large lesions having an increased risk of becoming Melanomas.
Benign neavi means that it is a harmless mole.