Skin cancer

Get to know what your skin is like and how to check it for changes

Written by spunout


Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer among 15-44 year olds in Ireland, in 2011 just over 10,000 new cases were diagnosed. Skin cancer starts in the top layer of skin and there are 2 main types: non-melanoma skin cancer and malignant melanoma skin cancer. The biggest increase in non-melanoma skin cancer in recent years has been seen in young people living in cities who get red skin from being out and about.

Non-melanoma skin cancer is the more common type of skin cancer and usually effects older people.

Remember to protect yourself

  • Never let your skin burn.
  • Never use a sunbed.
  • Sunscreen alone is not enough to protect your skin from sun damage.
  • In Ireland, from April to September, protect your skin with clothes, a hat, shade and sunscreen for the best protection.
  • In Ireland, from April to September, check the UV Index here – if it is 3 or more you are at greater risk of skin damage that can lead to skin cancer.
  • Tanned skin is not a sign of good health. It is your skin trying to protect itself from further UV damage.

Symptoms of skin cancer

Skin cancers do not all look the same. They can appear in a number of ways including any of the following:

  • A small lump
  • Flat, red spot
  • Firm, red lump
  • A lump or spot that is tender to touch
  • An ulcer that will not heal
  • A lump with a scaly or horny top
  • Rough, scaly patches
  • A new or changing mole

Malignant melanoma skin cancer is not as common, but it is a more dangerous type of cancer.

Symptoms of malignant meanoma skin cancer

  • A new growth or sore that does not heal in a few weeks
  • A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab or bleed
  • A skin ulcer not explained by other causes

Know your skin

  • Early detection and early treatment of skin cancer give you a better chance of recovery so get to know what your skin is like, especially if you have moles.
  • Stand in front of a large mirror and examine your body, both front and back.
  • Raise your arms in the air and examine your sides. With your arms still in the air, bend your elbows and look at the inner skin of your arms.
  • Look at the backs of your legs and the soles of your feet (including the gaps between your toes).
  • Use a second mirror to check the back of your neck, your bum and back.
  • Remember melanoma skin cancers can occur in parts of your skin that the sun doesn't touch, so it's important to check them too.

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