Caught early, skin cancer is treatable, but ignored, it can – and will – prove fatal. So how do you know what to look out for?

“It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer,” says Macmillan Information Nurse Specialist Jennifer Gorrie.

[Read more: Stay safe in the sun: 5 tips to protect yourself from skin cancer]

“If you have a spot or sore or ulcerated area that does not heal within four weeks, make an appointment to see your GP. Whilst these types of skin cancers are generally slow growing, treatment is easier if caught early.

“Malignant melanoma is a more serious type of skin cancer,” Gorrie adds.

“However if it is identified early is very treatable. If you notice any changes in the shape, colour and size of a mole, or if it is itchy or bleeds, it is important to see your GP without delay.”

How to check your moles

You should check your skin every few months so you’re aware of any obvious changes.

Look out for any moles or pigmented lesions that are different to the others on your body.

It’s also a good idea to get moles that are not easily visible checked by your GP or a healthcare professional.

Follow the ABCDE rule:

Asymmetry - The two halves of the mole do not look the same

Border - The edges of the mole are irregular, blurred or jagged

Colour - The colour of the mole is uneven, with more than one shade

Diameter - The mole is wider than 6mm in diameter (the size of a pencil eraser)

Evolving - Another danger sign to watch out for are any changes in its shape or colour. If it starts to itch or bleed or a new mole forms, you should get it checked.

If you notice any of these signs in a mole, see a doctor as soon as possible.

Who is at risk?

Malignant melanoma is the fifth most common type of cancer in the UK with around 13,300 people diagnosed annually.

Early diagnosis is key to getting the best possible outcome. People most at risk have:

  • Skin that burns easily in the sun
  • History of frequent sunburn as a child
  • Lots of freckles or more than 50 moles
  • A family history of skin cancer
  • Red or fair hair

Reducing the risk

To reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, it’s recommended that you avoid staying in direct sunlight between 11am and 3pm, use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 and protects from both UVA and UVB rays, reapplying regularly, don’t use sunbeds, and check your skin regularly.

If you’ve had skin cancer before, you are at higher risk of developing it again so need to take extra care.

For information or support on skin cancer, or any cancer worries, visit Cancer Research UK or call 0808 800 4040 to speak to a nurse. You can also visit Macmillan Cancer Support or call 0808 808 0000.

Photo credit: Cancer Research UK