Skin cancerNICE has developed its first guideline to reduce the numbers of people dying from melanoma. The draft guideline is aimed at tackling variations across the country in diagnosis and treatment.

The new guideline focuses on diagnosing and managing melanoma, working out how far it has progressed, identifying treatments for each stage of the disease, including when the cancer has spread, and outlines the best follow-up care after treatment for melanoma.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can spread to other parts of the body. It is most common in people who have pale skin, or many moles or tend to burn in the sun. It occurs when some cells in the skin begin to develop abnormally and is thought to be caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from natural or artificial sources.

There are currently around 13,500 new cases diagnosed each year in the UK and more than 2,000 people die each year from melanoma – more than all other skin cancers combined – and incidence is predicted to increase by 50% in the next 15 years.

Professor Mark Baker, Centre for Clinical Practice director at NICE, said: “The number of people being diagnosed with melanoma is rising at a worrying rate – faster than any other cancer.

“If it is caught early, the melanoma can be removed by surgery. If it is not diagnosed until the advanced stages it may have spread, so is harder to treat. However, there are a number of options available to help slow the progress of the disease and improve quality of life.

“The new draft guideline addresses areas where there is uncertainty or variation in practice, and will help clinicians to provide coherent and consistent care for people with suspected or diagnosed melanoma wherever they live.”