Skin health: your questions answered by Norfolk dermatologist
- Credit: Archant
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, with rates set to rise due to the increase use of sun beds and increased availability of travel to sunny destinations. Even though one in five people will develop the disease at some point, no NHS screening is available; however, the good news is the earlier skin cancer is found, the easier it is to treat.
Norfolk-based private dermatologist Dr Deepak Rallan, who runs Diamond Skin Care’s SkinSafe Clinic, is one of the UK’s foremost experts on detecting skin cancer and has made it his mission to reduce the rates of late diagnosis in Norfolk and Suffolk.
“It is widely known that early detection saves lives, but not everyone knows how to detect the signs of skin cancer at an early stage,” he says. “Many people rely on family and friends to monitor and detect their skin growths and moles, using just the naked eye. Although some irregularities may be seen, it is difficult to spot these abnormalities early.”
Here Dr Rallan answers some of the most common questions his patients ask.
Who is most at risk of skin cancer?
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The causes of skin cancer are related to lifestyle and/or genetics.
1. Frequent sunburn – avoiding being sunburnt regularly reduces the risk of skin cancer developing. Sunburn at a young age carries a higher risk of developing skin cancer than sunburn in later life. Those with fair skin, who burn easily and do not tan, and skin that frequently burns and rarely tans are most at risk.
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2. Prolonged sun exposure – some people’s skin does not burn easily, but prolonged exposure to the sun increases the risk of skin cancer.
3. Over 50s – the rate of skin cancer increases, for men and women, as they get older.
4. Family history – if parents or siblings have had skin cancer, the risk of developing the disease is higher.
5. Number of moles – this is genetically determined, but a mole count of more than 100 increases the risk to above average.
What are the signs of skin cancer and what should I look out for?
“The best way to tackle this (with minimal worry) is to focus on three very important tips, which I always tell my patients about if they are concerned about a mole or skin growth,” says Dr Rallan.
1. If your partner or friend notices that one of your moles has changed. It’s true that all moles normally change, but they do so over a long period of time, for example over a year, two years or more.
2. If the change has happened over three to four months that is very quick for a mole and may be a sign that something is wrong.
3. Where to check on your skin: Look out for irregular shaped, black moles. Melanoma (the most dangerous form of the disease) is commonly found in the upper back of men, followed by chest and arms. For women, it is commonly found in the lower legs, chest and face.
These are very strong reasons to get moles checked. It doesn’t necessarily mean skin cancer has developed, but it’s best to get it checked for peace of mind.
Do I have cancerous moles?
At the SkinSafe Clinic, we believe in ‘Early Protection = Life Protection’, so it is important not to wait for visibly abnormal signs to show before getting your moles checked. There are a number of guides available, but many of them deal with late diagnosis rather than early detection. A skin cancer detected and removed early has little or no chance of coming back.
“The earliest cancerous changes are easily missed with the naked eye,” says Dr Rallan. “Special training is needed to use a dermatoscope, which uses polarised light to catch what the eye misses. A skin cancer screening takes around 30 minutes, which includes a review of the patient’s medical history and a head-to-toe skin examination. We encourage patients to mention any moles or growths they are worried about, so the dermatologist can decide on any monitoring needed and most of all, put their minds at ease.”
? To find out more about Diamond Skin Care, visit www.diamondskincare.co.uk/skin-safe-clinic/ or call 01603 819125.