Skin cancer occurs when the genetic material inside the cells changes, causing an alteration in how cells behave. They increase in size and number, leading to the development of a tumour.
There are two main types of skin cancer, melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and accounts for almost three per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers each year. There are over 4,000 new cases of melanoma in men, and nearly 5,000 new cases in women per year. Melanoma (also known as malignant melanoma) is a cancer that develops from cells called melanocytes, found in the outer layer of our skin. Melanocytes produce melanin, a pigment that helps to protect the deeper layers of our skin from the harmful effects of the sun. This pigment appears as a suntan, which is a sign of damaged skin and a possible skin cancer warning sign. Melanomas often start in moles, but they can also develop elsewhere on the skin. In rare cases, melanomas can occur in the eye, under the fingernails or in other parts of the body not usually exposed to the sun.
Those who have a higher risk of developing melanoma usually have one or more of the following factors: a history of childhood sunburn, prolonged exposure to UV rays, fair skin, outdoor-related work and hobbies, multiple atypical moles, a previous history of skin cancer or melanoma, a family history of skin cancer or melanoma or a history of immunosuppression.