Skin cancer: signs to look out for such as patches and moles as TV chef James Martin reveals diagnosis

You should see a GP if you notice any change to your moles
You should see a GP if you notice any change to your moles

People have been urged to look out for the signs of skin cancer as TV chef James Martin has announced he was diagnosed with facial cancer. Martin's revelation comes just days after Loose Women star Coleen Nolan also shared that she too has been diagnosed with skin cancer.

Martin took to Twitter to write a series of tweets in which he documented that he underwent surgery for cancer around five years ago. The TV personality, aged 51, who regularly hosts cooking shows, wrote: "The end of 2017 was one of the most fraught and difficult periods of my life" and explained "I was diagnosed with cancer on my face and I had to have surgery, which I couldn’t do until two days before Christmas when we had finished filming. Since then it has returned on several occasions and I have to have regular treatments." He also added that he had been dealing with his grandfather’s death and a home burglary at the same time.

Martin's revelation comes after Nolan, age 58,  spoke about her diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma on her shoulder and melanoma on her face. She shared the information during a chat with her fellow Loose Women panelists during an episode of the show earlier in July. The TV presenter said that the diagnosis “hits you like a ton of bricks” and also shared that she underwent treatment with a chemo cream which now means that her cancer has been successfully treated.

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can cause skin cancer, but what are the signs and symptoms of skin cancer, and what is the difference between non-melanoma and melanomas, and also what exactly is basal cell carcinoma? Here’s what you need to know and what to look out for. If you notice any of these symptoms of melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, you should speak to your GP

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, with around 147,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed in the UK each year, according to the NHS. Non-melanoma skin cancer refers to a group of cancers that slowly develop in the upper layers of the skin.

The NHS website said: “The term non-melanoma distinguishes these more common types of skin cancer from the less common skin cancer known as melanoma, which can be more serious.” Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can spread to other organs in the body.

What are the symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer?

The first sign of non-melanoma skin cancer is usually the appearance of a lump or discoloured patch on the skin that persists after a few weeks. It slowly progresses over months or sometimes years and is the cancer or tumour. In most cases, cancerous lumps are red and firm and sometimes turn into ulcers, while cancerous patches are usually flat and scaly. Non-melanoma skin cancer usually develops on areas of skin regularly exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, hands, shoulders, upper chest and back.

What causes non-melanoma skin cancer?

Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light is the main cause of non-melanoma skin cancer. UV light comes from the sun, artificial tanning sunbeds and sun lamps.

Other risk factors that can increase your chances of developing non-melanoma skin cancer include:

  • a previous non-melanoma skin cancer

  • a family history of skin cancer

  • pale skin that burns easily

  • a large number of moles or freckles

  • taking medicine that suppresses your immune system

  • a co-existing medical condition that suppresses your immune system

You should see a GP if you have any skin abnormality, such as a lump, ulcer, lesion or skin discolouration that has not healed after four weeks.

What are the symptoms of melanoma skin cancer?

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 most commonly affected areas are the back in men and the legs in women.

Melanomas are uncommon in areas that are protected from sun exposure, such as the buttocks and the scalp, and in most cases they have an irregular shape and are more than one colour. The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed. You should look out for a mole that gradually changes shape, size or colour.

What causes melanoma?

Melanoma is caused by skin cells that begin to develop abnormally. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun is thought to cause most melanomas, but there is evidence which suggests some may result from sunbed exposure. The type of sun exposure that causes melanoma is sudden intense exposure, for example, while on holiday, which leads to sunburn.

Certain things can also increase your chance of developing melanoma, such as having:

  • lots of moles or freckles

  • pale skin that burns easily

  • red or blonde hair

  • a close family member who’s had melanoma

You should see a GP if you notice any change to your moles. They will refer you to a specialist clinic or hospital if they think you have melanoma.

What is basal cell carcinoma?

A basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a type of skin cancer. BCC is the most common type of non-melanoma skin cancer worldwide, according to the British Skin Foundation.

BCCs can be cured in almost every patient, although treatment for it can become more complicated if the BCC has been present for a long time and hasn't been treated in a timely manner, or if it occurs in an awkward place such as close to the eye or on the nose or ear.

BCCs rarely spread to other parts of the body which means that it is almost never a danger to life.  If a BCC is not treated early, however, it may get larger and may also be more likely to come back. Large BCCs may have to be surgically treated and this may then leave larger scars on a patient's body.