Skin Cancer Information

Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all cancers. Its main cause is over exposure to sunlight, especially sunburn. Family history is also an important risk factor. In the treatment of any skin cancers, early detection and removal is the best defence. The majority of skin cancer is preventable. As the sun is the main culprit, the most effective protection is sun avoidance.

There are three main types of skin cancers.

Melanoma Skin Cancer

Melanoma skin cancer is potentially the most serious form of skin cancer. Melanoma may suddenly appear without warning but it may also begin within an existing mole or freckle. Melanoma can spread very quickly once it penetrates below the surface of the skin and that is why it is important to detect melanoma as early as possible. The vast majority of patients with early stage melanoma skin cancer go to make a full recovering.

Skin Cancer Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

BCC is the most common form of skin cancer in humans and is very prevalent in Australia and New Zealand. The most common nodular type of BCC appears as a slowly-growing shiny white, pink or discoloured bump, most often on the face or neck. The superficial type of BCC presents as one or more irregular red scaly patches growing on the trunk or limbs.

BCC may invade into deeper tissues but does not spread to other parts of the body. Multiple BCCs are common.

Skin Cancer Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

SCC is a common form of skin cancer typically found on the ear, face, lips, hands or lower legs. Invasive SCC usually grows within a solar keratosis (scaly spots due to sun damage) and presents as a tender scaly or ulcerated lump. The preinvasive phase, SCC in situ (often called Bowen's disease), characteristically presents with one or more dry crusted red or brown patches.

Invasive SCC skin cancer needs to be attended to promptly as there is a risk of secondary spread.