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Patient Information Leaflets (PILs)

These Patient Information Leaflets (PILs) are specially written by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD).

The BAD has been awarded The Information Standard certification for the process it employs to develop information products aimed at the general public, which include PILs, Sun Awareness Campaign materials, and other information products.

The BAD shall hold responsibility for the accuracy of the information published, and neither the scheme operator nor the scheme owner shall have any responsibility for costs, losses, or direct or indirect damages or costs arising from inaccuracy of information or omissions in information published on the website on behalf of the BAD.

Please note:

  1. There are thousands of different skin complaints, therefore, the focus of the British Association of Dermatologists' PILs production is on the most common, rarest or debilitating skin conditions.
  2. The offer to provide details of source materials used to inform the British Association of Dermatologists' PILs is for instances where the advice provided in the PILs does not reflect local practice and therefore evidence supporting said advice needs to be produced. It is not an offer to conduct literature searches or supply bibilographic materials for your own research.
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Melanoma in situ

Melanoma in situ is the very earliest stage of a skin cancer called melanoma. ‘In situ’ is Latin for ‘in space’. It means that the cancer cells have not had the opportunity to spread to anywhere else in the body.

About 7,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with melanoma each year. The word ‘melanoma’ comes from the Greek word ‘melas’, meaning black. Melanin is the pigment that gives the skin its natural colour. Melanin is made in the skin by pigment cells called melanocytes. After our skin is exposed to sunlight, the melanocytes make more melanin, and so the skin becomes darker.

Melanocytes sometimes grow together in harmless groups or clusters, which are known as moles. Most people have between 10 and 50 moles and often they are darker than the surrounding skin.

Melanomas can arise in or near to a mole but can also appear on skin that looks normal. They develop when the skin pigment cells (melanocytes) become cancerous and multiply in an uncontrolled way. They can then invade the skin around them and may also spread to other areas such as the lymph nodes, liver and lungs.

In melanoma in situ, cancer cells are confined to the top layer of the skin (the epidermis) and are all contained in the area in which they began to develop. They have not started to spread or grow into deeper layers of the skin and have not become invasive. The outlook is excellent.This is because there are no blood or lymphatic channels in the top layer of the skin via which the abnormal cells can spread.  Some doctors call in situ cancers ‘pre-cancer’.

Melanoma in situcan be cured if it is cut out (excised) completely. However, if not removed with appropriate surgery, it can develop into an invasive cancer. This is why it is important to have melanoma in situ removed with a small rim of normal skin (an adequate surgical margin) and to know about preventative measures you can take which will lower your risk of another melanoma in the future.

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