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Skin cancer signs

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What does skin cancer look like and how can I tell cancerous spots from normal skin blemishes?

Each year more and more women in the UK are developing skin cancer as a direct result of our determination to get a sun tan, at no matter what cost.

Skin cancer is a disease where malignant cancer cells are found in the outer layers of the skin. Skin cancer can grow and spread to other parts of your body (through the bloodstream or the lymph system) where it can form secondary tumours.

There are three types of skin cancer, the two most common being Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinomas. These are easily treated and rarely prove fatal. The third and most dangerous is the malignant melanoma which is responsible for the majority of skin cancer related deaths.

The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, especially a new growth or a sore that doesn't heal. But how can tell a harmless spot from a potentially cancerous one? The five key signs of skin cancer to look out for are as follows:

1. Non-uniformity of colour - where the spot is not one constant colour.

2. Non-roundness - cancerous spots tend to deviate from the general round or oval shapes of most skin blemishes.

3. Itching and bleeding - very few regular skin blemishes will itch and bleed, assuming that you don't start picking them.

4. Significant size - any dark spot that is larger than 1/2cm (5mm) from one side to the other should be checked out.

5. Irregular border - where the edges of the spot are ragged or blurred.

However, before you start panicking about every dark spot on your body, it is worth remembering that skin cancer is still very rare in the UK despite the year on year increase. There are fewer than 8000 cases of malignant melanoma each year. And as long as the cancer is caught at an early stage, survival rates are very high.

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