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Melanoma health centre

Skin cancer overview

Melanoma skin cancer is the 5th most common cancer in the UK. Holidays in the sun, not using sunscreen and using tanning beds increase the risk of melanoma. Skin cancers include malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Basal and squamous cell are common and treatment is very effective. Malignant melanoma, especially in later stages, is life-threatening. Treatment is more successful if caught early.

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Moles on arm can indicate higher skin cancer risk

Can the number of moles on your upper right arm predict your risk of developing melanoma?

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Skin cancer diagnosis and treatment

How do I know if it's skin cancer?

The first signs of skin cancer are usually a noticeable change in an area of skin or the size or shape of a mole.

If you are concerned about these changes, get them checked by your GP.

The GP can then decide whether a referral to a specialist is needed for further assessment, tests and treatment.

Photos of the area may be sent to a specialist by the GP.


A skincancer diagnosis is confirmed by carrying out a biopsy: removing a small patch of skin or a mole for laboratory testing to check for cancer cells.

The area of skin will be numbed with anaesthetic so the procedure is not painful.

If melanomaskin cancer is diagnosed, other tests may be arranged to assess the degree of cancer spread (metastasis). They include:

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