Quick Guide – Melanoma vs Non-Melanoma

25 May 2015 | Category: Medical
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mole check

What do the common terms ‘non-melanoma’ and ‘melanoma’ actually mean, which is the most worrying and what can you do about it?

Our quick guide summarises:

Non Melanoma Skin Cancer

Non-melanoma skin cancer refers to a group of cancers that slowly develop in the upper layers of the skin.

Non-melanoma often appears as a lump or patch on the skin that doesn’t heal after a few weeks. In most cases, cancerous lumps are red and firm, while cancerous patches are often flat and scaly. The two most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer are:

  • basal cell carcinoma – starts in the cells lining the bottom of the epidermis – about 75% of skin cancers
  • squamous cell carcinoma – starts in the cells lining the top of the epidermis – accounts for about 20% of skin cancers

Melanoma Skin Cancer

Melanoma is the type of skin cancer that most often develops from a mole.

It originates in melanocytes-the cells in the skin that produce pigment or melanin. The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole, making it ‘unusual’ due to asymmetry, uneven border, odd coloration, increasing diameter or other change. This can happen anywhere on the body, but the back, legs, arms and face are most commonly affected due to sun exposure. Sun exposure isn’t always the cause of melanoma, but is very strongly linked in a lot of cases.

Melanoma is less common than non-melanoma but is potentially far more aggressive and dangerous, as it can spread to other organs in the body and can be fatal.

That’s why any changes in moles should be taken especially seriously.

Cosmedics Skin Clinics’ Dr Ross Perry calls it the ‘ugly duckling sign’ – a mole which seems different and out of character. Whether melanoma or non-melanoma is suspected, the advice is clear:

If in doubt, check it out.

This means a visit to the GP for assessment and diagnosis. If there is any concern, a referral will be made and removal of the lesion is normally swift.

However, if the diagnosis is that it is not of medical concern, patients wanting the moles removed are likely to have to seek private treatment, as the NHS would class this as cosmetic, for which funding is now very limited.

Mole Removal Surgery

Cosmedics’ team of doctors offer cosmetic mole surgery for aesthetic reasons in their London and Bristol clinics. They offer a variety of techniques depending on the lesion. Laser mole treatment is very popular as it is quick, pain-free and minimises scarring. For larger moles, minor skin surgery is usually the best option with shave excision or ellipse excision (with stitches).

Mole Testing

All moles are tested as a matter of course and a full histology report gives detail about the nature of the mole removed, even when there was no particular health concern.

Call 020 7386 0464 or email info@cosmedics.co.uk for an appointment.

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