Free skin cancer screenings in memory of 24-year-old Londoner help identify dozens of cases

Charles Sain-Ley-Berry-Gray died at the age of just 24, after being diagnosed with late-stage skin cancer  (The Charles SLBG Foundation)
Charles Sain-Ley-Berry-Gray died at the age of just 24, after being diagnosed with late-stage skin cancer (The Charles SLBG Foundation)

Free online skin cancer screenings funded in memory of a 24-year-old who died of the disease have led to nearly 80 people being diagnosed.

Charles Sain-Ley-Berry-Gray, from London, died after GPs reportedly failed to realise a mole under his arm was cancerous until it was too late.

The university student was eventually diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic melanoma at the end of November 2011, when a biopsy revealed the growth was cancerous.

By then the cancer spread far beyond the mole. At Stage 4, it was considered fast-growing and hard to beat, though success rates are typically high if it is caught early.

“Charles had been to see a doctor several times in the months [prior to his diagnosis] and, without a trained eye, the doctor repeatedly told Charles that it was fine and there was nothing to worry about,” said a spokesperson for The Charles SLBG Foundation, launched by loved ones in his memory after his tragic death.

“It is hard to say what might have been if we had caught the disease earlier but with something like this, time is of the essence.”

The foundation - spearheaded by Mr Sain-Ley-Berry-Gray’s mother Alyson, who died last year - raised £50,000 to help boost quick and effective diagnosis of moles and skin complaints in hope of detecting skin cancers earlier.

It has now funded 5,000 free online screenings, which are being run by dermatology experts FirstDerm.

A new report shows that in the first six months of the scheme 2,071 people aged four to 66 were screened, with the average user being 29 years old.

The screenings have so far identified 74 cases of skin cancer - 28 of which were possible malignant melanoma, which saw patients advised to urgently see a GP in person.

Around 2,500 of the free screnings are still available.

The process allows people to get their moles checked anonymously, using their mobile phones. Users must simply upload photographs of the area of concern, along with a description of the mole and how long it has been there. The submissions are then reviewed by a dermatologist within 24 hours.

FirstDerm is keen to keep the initiative going if it receives further funding, given the “wonderful” results.

Founder and CEO Dr Alexander Börve said: “Nearly 3,000 people die of malignant melanoma in the UK every year, which could have been prevented with early detection and action.

“The month of May is Melanoma awareness month and it is important to get the word out to the general public to check any suspicious moles.”

A spokesperson for FirstDerm added: “Skin cancer is the only form of cancer that you can see with your eyes, but many do not act on a suspicious skin lesion before it is too late.

“Not all healthcare providers have been trained to identify skin cancer. If caught early, its spread and possible death can be avoided.”