More must be done to encourage people to check their skin for changes which could be cancerous, leading doctors have said.
Most campaigns about skin cancer encourage people to stay safe in the sun but efforts should also be made to raise awareness about detecting changes, the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) said.
People should be encouraged to check their skin and report anything suspicious to their GP sooner rather than later.
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and is “relatively unique” in that is is highly visible, allowing people to monitor their skin for changes themselves, the dermatologists said.
The news comes as two studies, published at the World Congress on Cancers of the Skin in Edinburgh, reinforced the need to raise awareness of detection.
The first, conducted by experts at Barts Health NHS Trust in London, found that 40% of 92 melanoma patients noticed a change in their skin at least four months before seeking advice from a medical professional.
“We now also need to target our efforts on early detection”
Nina Goad, BAD
The second, which examined 1,700 patients treated at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in Hospitals in London between 1999 and 2012, identified an increase in incidence in melanoma over the study period as well as a rise in the average depth of the cancer - melanoma tumours grow in thickness the longer they are left untreated.
“The majority of public education campaigns around skin cancer have focused on preventing the disease, by staying safe in the sun,” said BAD spokeswoman Nina Goad.
“What these studies show is that we now also need to target our efforts on early detection, by encouraging people to check their skin and report anything suspicious to their GP sooner rather than later.
“We’ve been doing this for some years with our Be Sun Aware Roadshow, where we take mole-checking to high-profile venues, and we are now trying to target the people we know tend to present late with skin cancer, which tends to be older men.”