Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged, as an example, from overexposure to Wildlife Control ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
There are three main types of skin cancer:
• Squamous cell carcinoma
• Melanoma – the most dangerous form of membrane cancer
Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are known as non-melanoma membrane cancer.
Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with membrane cancer by the time they are 70, with more than 434,000 people treated for one or more non-melanoma membrane cancers in Australia each year. Non-melanoma skin cancer is more common in men, with nearly double the incidence in comparison with women.
Excluding non-melanoma skin cancer,* melanoma is the third most frequent cancer in Australian women and the fourth most common cancer in men, and also the most common cancer in Australians aged 15-44 years. In 2012, 12,036 Australians were diagnosed with melanoma.
Every year, in Australia:
• skin cancers account for approximately 80 percent of all newly diagnosed cancers
• between 95 and 99% of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun
• GPs have more than 1 million patient consultations annually for skin cancer
• The incidence of skin cancer is one of the highest in the world, two to three times the rates in Canada, the US and the United Kingdom.
*Non-melanoma skin cancers are not notified to cancer registries.
Assess for signs of skin cancer
The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better your chance of avoiding surgery or, in the event of a significant melanoma or other skin cancer, possible disfigurement or even death.
It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and for advice on early detection.
It is important to get to know your skin and what is normal for you, so that you notice any changes. Skin cancers rarely hurt and are much more frequently seen than felt.
Develop a routine habit of checking your skin for new stains and changes to existing freckles or moles.
How to check your skin
• Make sure you check your whole body as skin cancers can sometimes occur in parts of the body not exposed to the sun, for example soles of the feet, between fingers and toes and under nails.
• Undress completely and make sure you have good light.
• Use a mirror to test hard to see spots, like your back and scalp, or get a relative, partner or friend to check it for you.
There are three main forms of skin cancer- melanoma (like nodular melanoma), basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
• Most deadly type of skin cancer.
• If left untreated can spread to other parts of the body.
• Appears as a new place or an existing spot that changes in color, size or shape.
Can appear on skin not normally exposed to sunlight.
• Grows quickly.
• Looks different from common melanomas. Raised and even in colour.
• Many are red or pink and some are black or brown.
• they’re firm to touch and dome-shaped.
Basal cell carcinoma
• Most common, least dangerous form of skin cancer.
• Red, pale or pearly in colour, appears as a bulge or dry, scaly place.
• May ulcerate or neglect to completely heal.
• Grows slowly, usually on regions which are frequently exposed to the sun.
Squamous cell carcinoma
• Grows over some months, usually on areas often exposed to the sun.
• More likely to happen in people over 50 years of age.
ABCD melanoma detection manual
A is for Asymmetry – Look for stains that lack symmetry. In other words, if a line was drawn through the middle, the two sides wouldn’t match up.
B is for Border – A place with a spreading or irregular edge (notched).
C is for Colour – Blotchy spots with a number of colours such as black, blue, red, white or grey.
D is for Diameter – Look for spots which are getting bigger.
These are some changes to look out for when checking your skin for signs of any cancer:
• New moles.
• An outline of a mole that becomes notched.
• An area that changes color from brown to black or is diverse.
• A spot that becomes raised or develops a lump within it.
• The surface of a mole becoming rough, scaly or ulcerated.
• Moles that itch or tingle.
• Spots that looks different from the others.
Just about all of us have moles. Moles aren’t normally present at birth, but appear in childhood and early teenage years. By age 15, Australian children have an average of more than 50 moles.
Normal moles usually look alike. See your physician if a mole looks different or if a new mole appears after the age of 25. The more moles a person have, the higher the risk of melanoma.
• Uniform in shape and even coloured. May be raised.
• The more moles or freckles you have the higher your risk of skin cancer.
• May have irregular borders and a number of colours like brown and black.
• Observe moles carefully for any sign of change.
Although you may notice one or more skin changes, it does not necessarily indicate that you have skin cancer however it is important that you see your GP to have them investigated further. Your GP can talk about your skin cancer risk and advise you on your need for medical checks or self-examination.
It can be tricky to know whether something in your skin is a harmless mole or normal sun damage, or a sign of cancer. When in doubt, talk to your GP.
What’s my skin type?
Skin types that are more sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) radiation burn more quickly and are at a greater risk of skin cancer.
All skin types can be ruined by too much UV radiation. Skin types that are more sensitive to UV radiation burn faster and therefore are at a greater risk of skin cancer.
People with naturally very dark skin (usually skin type V or VI) still should take care in sunlight despite the fact that they may rarely, if ever, get sunburnt. The larger quantity of melanin in very dark skin offers natural protection from UV radiation. This means the risk of skin cancer is reduced.
Eye damage can occur regardless of skin type. High levels of UV radiation have also been linked to harmful effects on the immune system.
People with very dark skin don’t normally have to apply sunscreen (but this remains a personal decision) but they should wear sunglasses or hats to protect their eyes.
Vitamin D deficiency might be a greater health concern for people with naturally very dark skin, since it is more difficult for people with this skin type to make vitamin D. People with naturally darker skin may require up to three to six times more sun exposure to aid with their vitamin D levels.
Tends to have freckles, red or fair hair, blue or green eyes.
Tends to have light hair, blue or brown eyes.
Tends to have brown eyes and hair.
Rarely burns, frequently tans. Tends to have dark brown eyes and hair.
Dark brown skin. Rarely burns, tans profusely.
Deeply pigmented, dark brown to black skin. Never burns.