COVID-19: Advice for skin cancer patients

Written by: Dr Dev Shah
Published: | Updated: 10/07/2020
Edited by: Robert Smith

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. In the UK alone, there are approximately 147,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer each year. The pandemic has been a lot to take in and even more so for those with recently diagnosed conditions such as skin cancer.



We found out from leading dermatologist, Dr Dev Shah, how COVID-19 is affecting treatment for those with skin cancer and whether patients are more vulnerable to the virus. He also clarified for us why UV lights should not be used to kill the germ that causes COVID-19.

Are skin cancer patients at a greater risk for COVID-19?

No, it does not affect your skin cancer risk if you contract COVID-19 at an early stage of your skin cancer, but may affect skin cancer treatment if you catch it at a late stage. Therefore, if you’re told that you have urgent skin cancer it’s wise to get that treated as quickly as possible.

How is coronavirus affecting skin cancer treatment?

At the moment it's had a very negative impact on skincare treatment as we haven’t been able to treat in a timely fashion as we have had to prioritise only very urgent treatment. This means delays and when you come to have treatment it may be more complicated than imagined. Most dermatology departments are open to treat urgent skin cancers and of course are using adequate PPE equipment.


Are you still seeing patients face to face?

We are still seeing patients in person but it would be wise to consult via email or video consultation prior to coming for surgery so that it can be planned in a more timely fashion for you and if your lesion is entirely normal we can usually diagnose this over email and you would not have to come in at all.

Can UV lights kill coronavirus safely and effectively or can they cause cancer?

Yes, UV lights may help with killing coronavirus because of its drying effect and its immunosuppressive effect, but excessive exposure to UV light is also likely to cause skin cancer. Therefore, we do not recommend UV light to kill coronavirus but recommend frequent hand washing and other measures to avoid catching Covid-19 and reducing your risk of getting skin cancer.


Are cancer survivors at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19?

Yes, if they’re immunosuppressed. It is wise for them to talk to their doctor, to find out whether they should come out of shielding or not. It depends on the treatment they have had.

My medication for skin cancer is running out and I need a prescription. What should I do?

If it’s low-risk cancer, patients can go and get their prescription but if they’re having drugs for their skin cancer, i.e. immunosuppressive drugs then they should have it delivered or get someone to get it for them.

If you have an urgent skin cancer your life may be at risk, whilst you may be at risk of coronavirus as well, it’s a balance of what is more likely to cause a problem for you and so please discuss that with your dermatologist to find out what’s safest.

Remember it’s crucial to regularly check your skin for anything out of the ordinary. For any questions about your skin, you may like to book an appointment or e-Consultation with a leading dermatologist. Visit Dr Dev Shah’s profile today for more information on treatment and availability.

By Dr Dev Shah

Dr Dev Shah is an acclaimed consultant dermatologist based in London and an expert in skin cancer, Mohs surgery and vitiligo. At Hillingdon Hospital, he is the lead clinician for skin cancer, and set up the Mohs surgery service now offered there. He trained at the award-winning dermatology department in Cardiff, and is involved in research with the Cardiff Microneedle Team. At his private practice in north-west London, Dr Shah takes pride in delivering top-quality patient care, adapting treatment to not only each individual, but also their particular pathology or problem. 

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