The number of people developing melanoma is continuing to rise and it is now the fifth most common cancer in the UK. 1 in 36 men and 1 in 47 women in the UK will be diagnosed with melanoma during their lifetime. In the UK, the risk of melanoma increases with age, however, the number of melanoma cases diagnosed in young people is disproportionately high, making melanoma one of the most common cancers in people aged 15–34
Melanoma is cancer that usually starts in the skin, either in a mole or in normal-looking skin. Approximately half of all melanomas start in normal-looking skin, this usually looks like a dark area or an abnormal new mole.
People with darker skin tones are at less risk of melanoma than people with fairer skin. This is because the skin’s pigment cells (melanocytes) produce melanin, which protects against the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) light. In women, the most common place for melanoma to develop is on the legs. In men, melanoma is most commonly found on the chest and back. Melanomas are uncommon in areas which are protected from sun exposure. However, in dark-skinned people, melanoma tends to be more common in the nails of the fingers or toes, on the palms of the hands, or soles of the feet.
Melanoma Warning Signs
Look for anything new, changing or unusual on both sun-exposed and sun-protected areas of the body. Most moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are harmless – but not always. The ABCDE rule (see above) can help you detect melanoma.