One in 10 cases of skin cancer are malignant melanomas, the most serious and aggressive type of the disease and the second most common form of cancer in people aged 15 to 34.
Patient Hermione Lawson, a senior press officer from Buckinghamshire, 29, explains how she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma at 18.
How it first started
‘I had a lot of foreign family holidays in my childhood and teens, in hot sunny climates. I have pale skin and brown hair (but no freckles), and I did have some episodes of sunburn.
‘I‘ve always had a lot of moles ever since I was a child. My mum always taught me to keep an eye on them and be aware of any changes.
‘When I was 18, I noticed one mole in particular on my right arm just above my elbow. It didn’t change colour or shape, but I just had a very strong instinct something was wrong with it.’
Getting a diagnosis
Hermione recalls seeing her GP and being referred to a dermatologist to have her mole checked.
‘He said it didn’t look like a melanoma, but said if I was concerned he would be happy to remove it. He went ahead and did so.’
Days later, she was told tests revealed that her mole was cancerous.
‘I had a rare type of cancer called nevoid malignant melanoma − which can mimic healthy cells – so it doesn’t have any of the classic signs of malignant melanoma such as changes in colour and shape, bleeding or crusting.
‘I was so lucky that the cancer had not spread beyond the mole and I was able to have just a wide skin excision.’
How we were able to help
Hermione saw a specialist every six months for three years to have all her moles checked.
‘My diagnosis really changed my attitude to the sun − I stay in the shade and cover up these days. Young people die of malignant melanoma and need to be made aware of the risks.’
Our Cancer Centre
Visit our Cancer Centre to read our article on keeping safe in the sun. Ask our experts!
Sun damage: Risks and how to protect yourself