Over-exposure of skin to sunlight can be dangerous as well as uncomfortable. The redness, heat and pain of sunburn is agonising and is caused by exposure to UVB radiation from the sun. UVB radiation is also responsible for skin cancer.
People of all ages can get skin cancer, but it is rarely seen in children. People who are exposed to large quantities of sun radiation can develop skin cancer as early as 20 to 30 years of age, but the disease is more common in elderly people.
The risk of developing skin cancer is increased following episodes of sunburn, although there may be a delay of many years before the cancer appears. A small number of cases are caused by hereditary conditions, but they are also triggered by exposure to sun rays. Sun beds can also cause skin cancer.
Symptoms of skin cancer include:
An existing mole which changes colour or shape or begins to bleed or ooze.
Sores that heal very slowly may appear on the mole.
Moles may become unusually large.
Blood blisters underneath nails and toenails that are not the result of a blow.
Areas of skin that become scaly, itchy, tender or red, or areas that ooze, bleed or become crusty.
Skin cancer can be difficult to diagnose so a biopsy is usually carried out. The doctor will also check to see if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and surrounding tissue. If the biopsy reveals that the affected area is cancerous, surgery is usually carried out and it is necessary to remove not only the tumour but the normal skin around it and the fatty tissue underneath it. If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, chemotherapy and radiotherapy may be used.