An expert guide to skin cancer awareness


Dr Ariel Haus of Dr Haus Dermatology on the importance of regularly checking your skin for changes

As we welcome the warmer weather and the arrival of Sun Awareness Week (6th – 12th May), it’s important to remember that while the sun may feel great, it can also pose significant risks to our skin. Sunscreen and sun-safe practices are crucial, but equally important are regular skin checks. Monitoring your moles and keeping an eye on any changes is essential for detecting skin cancer early.

In the UK, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and the number of people diagnosed with the disease has risen sharply in the past 50 years. Unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight, sunbeds and sunburn can all damage the skin cells and increase the risk of developing skin cancer. This is even more pronounced for individuals with freckles or moles, who are at higher risk of developing the disease. If you have moles, making sure to protect yourself from excessive sun exposure is especially crucial – as are regular skin checks. Your skin will thank you for the extra TLC!

Dr Ariel Haus of Dr Haus Dermatology

Dr Ariel Haus of Dr Haus Dermatology

Why do moles increase cancer risk?

Moles, especially those exposed to UV radiation, can undergo changes that make them more likely to become cancerous. While moles themselves are common and usually benign, certain types of moles and changes in moles can indicate an increased risk of skin cancer, particularly melanoma, which can be highly aggressive if not detected and treated early. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should worry about every mole, but it does mean you should be very careful in the sun. And you should also make sure to regularly check your skin and moles for changes – spotting these is crucial because it can help detect skin cancer early, when it’s most treatable.

What is melanoma?

Skin cancer broadly falls into two main categories: melanoma skin cancer and non-melanoma skin cancer. Melanoma is less common than non-melanoma but is the more dangerous form of the disease. It can occur anywhere on the skin, most commonly on areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, arms and legs.

What signs should you be looking out for?

Melanoma often appears as a new mole or a change in an existing mole. While they can vary in appearance, often melanomas are an uneven shape. Unlike normal moles, they are usually a mix of two or more colours and also tend to be bigger, often more than 6mm wide although they can be smaller if diagnosed early. Monitoring moles for any changes in size, shape and colour can lead to the early detection of abnormal growth, allowing for prompt medical intervention. Other signs to look out for include moles that are swollen and sore, bleeding, itchy, or crusty.

What is the best way to check for skin cancer?

The key to catching skin cancer early is to keep an eye out for any changes in your skin, particularly new growths or changes in existing moles. Begin regularly checking your skin to familiarise yourself with where your moles, birthmarks, and other marks are and their usual look and feel, so you can detect any changes over time. In general, if you notice any type of mole or lump that is changing shape, growing, bleeding, crusting, itching or flaking, or won’t heal, it may require further evaluation by a healthcare professional or dermatologist.