Non-melanoma Skin Cancer

One of the most prevalent types of cancer in the world is skin cancer. In particular, the term ‘non-melanoma skin cancers’ refers to the group of slowly progressing type that occur in the outer layers of skin. It is important to distinguish between this group and melanoma or ‘skin tumors’ that can spread quickly if not treated.

The first sign of non-melanoma skin cancer is usually the appearance of a lump or patch on the skin that doesn’t heal after a few weeks.
In most cases, cancerous lumps are red and firm, while cancerous patches are often flat and scaly.
See your GP if you have any skin abnormality that hasn’t healed after four weeks. Although it is unlikely to be skin cancer, it is best to be sure.

Different types of non-melanoma skin cancer

Occurring usually in the upper epidermis (or outer layers of skin), the are frequently named using the name of the type of skin cell they develop from.

The majority of skin cancers fall into two main categories;

  1. Over three quarters of all diagnoses are basal cell carcinoma and these occur in cells in the inner layers of skin.
  2. The other less frequent type, but still accounting for one fifth of skin cancers suffered, is squamous cell carcinoma, which occurs conversely in the outer layers of skin.

What causes it?

Overexposure to UV (ultraviolet) light rays from the sun is by far and away the leading cause of non-melanoma skin cancer. It can also be caused by the same UV rays the skin is bombarded with when using sunbeds.
Other less common reasons for the condition can be;

  • A family history of skin cancer
  • If you have fair ‘easily burnt’ skin
  • If you are have a lot of freckles or moles

Non-melanoma skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the world. There are more than 100,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer every year in the UK.
Non-melanoma skin cancer affects slightly more men than women.


Very often, the treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer is surgery to remove cancerous cells. Other types of treatment include cryotherapy (freezing), creams, radiotherapy, photodynamic therapy (light) and chemotherapy. In most cases, treatment will be successful, due to the slow moving nature of these types of skin cancer.

A biopsy (taking a small sample of the skin cells and analyzing under a microscope) will normally give you an accurate diagnosis.

For more information or to have a chat about non-melanoma skin cancers, call us today.


A much rarer and more serious type of cancer that starts off as skin cancer, is what is known as ‘malignant melanoma’. The reason it is much more sinister than non-melanoma, is that it can spread to other of the body’s vital organs.

The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole. This can happen anywhere on the body, but the back, legs, arms and face are most commonly affected.

Generally speaking, melanomas will have a variation in colouring and will be of a non-regular shape. They could also be enlarged, itchy and/or bleeding.


The causes of melanoma and non-melanoma are largely the same as they can both be caused by overexposure to UV rays from the sun or sunbeds, a family history of the condition and fair skin that is easily damaged by the sun.


A biopsy is again the first port of call to see if the suspicious mole is indeed cancerous and you may also require something called a ‘sentinel node biopsy’ that checks to see if the cancer has spread anywhere else. Further treatment will depend largely on what is discovered during this process.

If you have any concerns yourself or would just like a friendly chat with a professional about screening for skin cancers, please do contact us today.