Dr Howard Stevens, a skin cancer specialist, explains why some people may be at higher risk and how screening can be beneficial.
Our skin protects us from environmental risk, including the rays of the sun. A valuable yet vulnerable barrier, which can be susceptible to unwanted cellular change.
Our clinics offer skin cancer screening in London, under the expert eye of consultant dermatologists who specialise in this area. A vital service for a disease which is highly treatable, if detected at the right time.
Skin cancer has become the most common type of cancer. In the UK, more cases are diagnosed each year than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer put together. The lifetime risk of skin cancer is currently around 20%.
Our annual skin cancer checks are popular with patients, although we also need to offer bespoke screening programs, to people who may be at additional risk. Through familial factors, previous skin cancers, or other medical conditions.
Whether through family traits, or unknown reasons, if you have a large number of moles, or they are atypical, your risk may be increased. The same would apply for higher than normal exposure to the sun.
We would encourage anyone at risk to talk to our staff and join a screening program. Not least as digital technology has made the approach effective and more pleasant.
State Of The Art Equipment
Total body digital dermoscopy is an important development, allowing high magnification images of suspicious lesions to be taken with standard images. An extension of full body photography, itself a useful, long term monitoring tool.
Digital dermoscopy can be used alongside confocal microscopy, a laser based technique able to look beneath your skin. Both are available at our London clinics, a unique situation for a UK private clinic and a huge benefit for skin cancer screening.
Although not always the case, skin biopsies can be painful, or leave a scar. There are circumstances where they would still be beneficial but using the latest technology to avoid them is a step forward.
An ability to inspect your skin in a way no other technology, or the human eye can is enhanced by dedicated computer software. This analyses and highlights new growths, or changes in existing lesions and moles, on a microscopic level.
Decisions stay with your consultant, their expertise and experience is the ultimate test, although the technical assistance is welcomed.
Not least for patients at known risk of serious skin cancers, such as melanoma. Whilst programs for normal body photography and mole mapping bring similar benefits to those with lower risk, along with peace of mind.
The approaches may sound similar and are in a sense but adopt different techniques, which can also be used with varying sensitivity. The early detection of skin cancer is and should be a highly personalised matter.
We should stress the bespoke decisions on screening programs which apply to every patient. You may still find information on the main techniques useful, at the following links:
- Total Body Dermoscopy – A specialist screening program, for people who may be at specific risk. Perhaps family traits, a number of atypical moles, previous conditions, or high exposure to the sun:
Digital Dermoscopy →
- Digital Mole Mapping – A type of microscopic photography, to record and compare mole patterns over time. Suited to a number of patients, not least those with risk factors, such as many moles:
Mole Mapping →
- Annual Skin Cancer Checks – There is no national screening initiative in place, our program offers inspection by a consultant dermatologist, to monitor your skin for a range of key conditions:
Annual Skin Checks →
- The Underlying Principle – For short, or longer term screening, a technique called sequential digital dermoscopy often applies. See an explanation and images showing magnification levels:
Monitoring Your Skin →
Specialist Screening Support
Melanoma is rightly regarded as the more serious form of skin cancer, total body dermoscopy, often coupled with confocal microspcopy is an ideal form of screening. An option you should choose if you have:
- A family history of melanoma, or previous personal incidence.
- A large number of moles, or several dysplastic naevi (multi-coloured).
- Long term sun exposure, which is a prime cause of melanoma.
- New moles appearing in adulthood, or unusual changes to any existing moles.
For patients with a number of moles but no related history, you may find that mole mapping will suit. For those with concerns over other types of skin cancer, a bespoke, or annual screening can be arranged.
Technology will be put to full use in your skin cancer screening program but the core benefit comes from our staff profile. A group of skin cancer specialists and trained support staff which is unique in London.
Their ability to monitor, diagnose and if required deal with cancers does not bring an increase in treatment, quite the opposite. Early, accurate detection brings the best possible care for skin cancer.
From non surgical routes, to minor excision, to specialist, cosmetically concerned surgery where needed, skill and speed of intervention matter. All of these services are available in house at our London clinics.
Monitoring For Children
If your child is born with moles, or they develop quite early, or appear in numbers during adolescence, a fair chance you will have been referred to a dermatologist for monitoring.
If not, this is a good idea. We don’t want to cause concern to anyone and melanoma in childhood is rare, although in teenage years, the incidence does increase.
As with an adult, a specialist should examine any mole on a child’s skin which is changing quickly, differs notably from others, develops an irregular border, or starts to bleed, or look like more like a sore.
Arranging Your Screening Program
Skin Care Network’s skin cancer screening in London is a consultant led service, available to all patients. A proactive part of our skin cancer treatment program, including a lifetime’s advice on staying safe.
In cost terms, monitoring and early detection is almost always a saving but the real savings are greater. Peace of mind and the knowledge that if an issue is found, this will be dealt with at an early stage.
If you are in an at risk group, we would strongly recommend screening. Your program will be tailored to you, your body, skin, history, age and lifestyle, not an off the peg solution.
Skin cancer screening is part of our specialist service. You can see more via the main skin cancer treatment menu, our friendly staff are also available to talk through your needs, or arrange a convenient visit.