Information for the public
Skin cancer (melanoma)
Skin cancer is divided into 2 main types, called melanoma and non‑melanoma. Melanoma is the more serious type. Although melanoma is less common than the non‑melanoma skin cancers, the number of people who develop it is rising every year.
Melanoma develops when cells in the skin are damaged, often by exposure to the sun. This damage can cause the skin cells to multiply very quickly and form tumours, which appear as lesions on the skin. These lesions often look like moles, or develop from existing moles. Sometimes they look like patches or lumps on the skin. They are usually black or brown although they can be other colours as well, such as red, grey or white. The first sign of melanoma is usually a new mole or changes in the appearance of an existing mole.
People with pale skin are the most likely to develop melanoma, especially if they have skin that already has many moles or that burns easily in the sun.
Melanoma can develop anywhere on the body, although the most common places are the back, legs, arms and face. It can spread from the skin to other parts of the body. However, if it's found early enough, it can be cured before it spreads.