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Some Like It Hot Protecting Yourself Against Malignant Melanoma

Ahh summer.  BBQs, holidays, long balmy evenings and relaxing days catching up on the latest summer blockbusters by the seaside.  Along with the glorious weather comes a chance to bare a little more and, let’s face it, most of us would rather show off golden brown skin as opposed to lily-white flesh.

Unfortunately, a glowing tan, via sunbathing or a sunbed, can come at a terrible price.  Malignant melanoma is the fifth most common cause of cancer in the UK and it was reported this week that even applying factor 50 sunscreen will not prevent this disease developing[1].

So what is malignant melanoma and what causes it?  How can you prevent it?  Is it possible to claim compensation if I have developed the disease?

Malignant Melanoma Facts

Malignant melanoma is cancer of the pigment cells of the skin[2].  Although most know to keep an eye on moles and seek medical advice if they change shape or colour, it is less well known that melanoma can appear on perfectly ordinary looking skin[3].

In the UK, there are approximately 13,000 people diagnosed with malignant melanoma each year.  If the disease is diagnosed early and it has not spread to any other part of the body, it is highly likely that simply removing the cancer will cure the disease completely[4]. Almost 90% of people diagnosed with malignant melanoma live at least ten years after diagnosis.

What Causes Malignant Melanoma?

Although researchers have discovered the risk factors related to developing malignant melanoma, they do not fully know why some moles become cancerous and others don’t[5]. We do know that ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage the skin’s DNA, which can then go on to cause cancer.  Our biggest exposure to UV rays is from the sun. Using tanning beds can also increase your exposure.

Apart from chronic or intense exposure to UV rays, other risk factors which can lead to malignant melanoma developing include:

  • A family history of the disease
  • Having fair skin with blue eyes and blond or reddish hair colour
  • If you have a larger than average number of moles on your body (50+)[6]
  • Prolonged use of sunbeds[7]

Preventing Skin Cancer

As in most cases, prevention is better than the cure.  The best ways to prevent developing malignant melanoma are:

  • Use sun sense. Stay out of the sun between 10am and 3pm. Wear loose fitted clothing that cover up exposed areas, wear a hat and sunglasses and use sunscreen
  • Never allow yourself or your child to get sunburnt
  • Avoid using sunbeds[8]
  • Have your moles checked regularly by a health professional and be on the lookout for any changes in a mole’s colour, shape or size


Because it is so important to diagnose melanoma early on order to heighten the chances of a complete recovery, you may be able to claim compensation if your health professional’s negligence caused a delay in diagnosis and this caused you additional harm (for example, you have to undergo more invasive treatment to remove the cancer from other parts of your body).

To talk to us about seeking compensation for a delay or misdiagnosis of malignant melanoma, then please contact us by filling in this form.  Our friendly, experienced lawyers will listen to your situation and advise you on the next steps to take.