The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued new guidance for treating melanoma, the third most common skin cancer in the UK, which accounts for more cancer deaths than all other skin cancers combined. The motivation behind the guidance is to reduce the number of people who die from the disease and to address the wide variations in diagnosis and treatment across the country.

According to Cancer Research UK, there were more than 2,000 deaths from melanoma in 2012. The number of malignant melanoma cases in the UK has risen faster over the past 30 years than any of the 10 most common cancers.

The NICE guidance recommends the use of dermoscopy to assess all identified brown or black skin spots and for body imaging - including the brain - to be used on the most serious cases. The guidance also focuses on providing patients with better information and improving follow-up care, reports The Telegraph.

Lucie Prothero, who specialises in delayed diagnosis of cancer cases within the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, comments: “This new guidance recognises that more needs to be done to improve early detection and diagnosis of skin cancer in this country. This resonates with our experience of dealing with many enquiries and claims from cancer sufferers and their families who are concerned that the opportunity for an earlier diagnosis was missed.

“Early detection and diagnosis of melanoma is essential to offer the best possible chances of successful treatment. Many of the cases we see result from the negligent failure to perform a biopsy on skin abnormalities or to follow up. By the time the cancer is diagnosed, the melanoma has often spread and the prognosis is very poor. We welcome this new guidance which seeks to improve diagnosis and treatment of melanoma across the country and avoid preventable loss of life.”