Skin cancer is on the increase in the UK. Our health reporter Siobhan Ryan takes a look at state-of-the-art equipment being used to detect and treat new cases.

There are more than 2,400 new cases of melanoma in men and more than 3,300 new cases in women each year.

Among people under 35, it is the third most common cancer in women and the fifth most common in men. Cases of skin cancer in people in their teens and 20s is also increasing.

Health bosses and cancer charities say it is vital the message about the dangers of the sun gets across.

They say not enough people are applying the right sort of sun cream while too many others are not bothering with any at all.

Doctor Peter Washert, a skin cancer specialist from Crawley, said: "Part of the problem is that although people apply cream and take precautions while abroad, they don't bother to do the same at home. But the sun can be just as dangerous in this country. People need to put on a high protection cream and keep on applying it throughout the day."

In a recent survey, nearly six out of ten men and four out of ten women said they never use a protective sun cream during sunny periods in the UK.

Lesley Walker from Cancer Research UK said: "In the survey, about eight out of ten people who got burnt did so when they were involved in an outdoor activity rather than when they were actively sunbathing. We all need to cover up, even when we're just out shopping."

Southlands Hospital in Shoreham is one of only three in England using state-of-the-art specialist equipment to detect and treat skin cancer. It uses a mole scanner worth £30,000 and a photodynamic therapy unit which uses a special wavelength of light to destroy cancer cells while preserving the healthy skin.

Freddy Harber, 32, from Worthing, has already benefited from the new equipment. She has had a cancerous mole removed from her back and has several others checked annually.

She said: "I was badly sunburnt as a child but since then, I have always been very careful about going out in the sun. The moles need to be examined regularly to check for any problems."

A new dedicated dermatology unit has been set up at the hospital to cope with the growing number of skin cancer cases in the county.

Melanoma develops from cells found in the outer layer of the skin. These cells produce melanin, a pigment which helps protect the deeper layers of the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. This pigment appears as a suntan, which is a sign of damaged skin.

Melanomas usually start in moles or in areas of normal-looking skin. In rare cases, melanomas can occur in the eye, under the fingernails, inside the torso or in other parts of the body not usually exposed to the sun.

If the cancer is not treated, cancer cells from the original site may break away and spread to other parts of the body, such as the brain, lung or liver.

Sun exposure is the main and most preventable risk and people should avoid going out in hot sun between 11am and 3pm.

Research suggests people who have had sunburn and/or intense sun exposure in childhood are at an increased risk of developing melanoma in later life.

Short periods of intense exposure to sunlight, for example on a two-week beach holiday, and sunbeds also increase the risk.

It is important to protect children's skin from the sun and babies younger than a year should not be exposed to strong sun.

Fair skin contains less protective pigment than darker skin. Having fair skin (especially if it freckles or burns easily) increases the risk of developing melanoma. Even people with dark skin can still develop melanoma, especially on the soles of feet or the palms of hands.

Having large numbers of moles (50-100) increases the risk of developing melanoma.

Approximately one third of melanomas develop from normal moles. The rest develop on areas of previously normal skin.

The earlier the cancer is detected, the better the chance of cure.

People who notice any of the following symptoms should report them to the doctor without delay: An existing mole or dark patch that is getting larger or is newly growing, a mole with a ragged outline or a mole with a mixture of different shades of brown and black.

The following signs do not necessarily mean a melanoma has developed, but people should still look out for them: An inflamed mole or one with a reddish edge, a bleeding, oozing or crusting mole, a change in sensation of a mole such as a mild itch, or a mole that is bigger than all other moles.

For more information on the treatment of melanoma, go to