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Melanoma health centre

Skin cancer overview

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. Around 2,000 people die from malignant melanoma skin cancer each year in the England and Wales. Experts believe ‘binge’ tanning and increased use of sunbeds is to blame. Early diagnosis and treatment can increase the survival rate.

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Approval close for new skin cancer drug

A new medication for the treatment of melanoma, called dabrafenib, (Tafinla), should be widely available for NHS use in England, say health officials.

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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.

Biopsy

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

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