Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is by far the most common cancer we have in Australia. Thanks to aggressive public health campaigns like ’Slip Slop Slap’, there’s a high level of awareness in the community about the dangers of overexposure to sunlight. Most of us know that if we develop a lump in our skin, or a pigmented patch, it’s a good idea to have it checked.

Site Images / sun hat (medium)Who is at risk?

Most people living in Australia are at risk of skin cancer, but some people are more at risk.

These are people who:

  • have fair skin and burn quickly
  • have freckles and/or a lot of moles
  • were exposed to the Australian sun as children
  • suntan deliberately
  • have a family history of skin cancer
  • work outdoors for long periods of time
  • use solariums, sun lamps and sun beds.

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is predominantly caused by overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (UVR)

There are three main types of skin cancer. Melanoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Basal Cell Carcinoma.

Can you spot a skin cancer? The Cancer Council have a fact sheet to help you detect a melanoma. Click here for the Melanoma early detection sheet.

Melanoma

  • The most dangerous skin cancer.
  • If untreated, cancer cells spread to other parts of the body. If treated early, almost all are cured.
  • Appears as a new spot; or an existing spot, freckle or mole that changes colour, size or shape.
  • Usually has an irregular or smudgy outline and is more than one shade or colour.
  • Grows over weeks to months, anywhere on the body, even on non sun exposed areas.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

  • Not as dangerous as melanoma but may spread to other parts of the body if not treated.
  • A thickened red, scaly spot. Later it may bleed easily or ulcerate.
  • It may be sore or it may sting.
  • Grows over some months.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

  • Most common and least dangerous skin cancer.
  • Appears as a lump or a pink area.
  • Red, pale or pearly in colour.
  • As it grows it may become ulcerated like an unhealing sore or one that heals then breaks down again.
  • Grows slowly, usually on the head, neck and upper torso.

Other Skin Spots

Solar/Actinic keratosis

  • These spots are thought to be pre-cancerous. If you have any of these spots you should regularly check your skin for any changes.

Solar keratoses or sunspots

  • A warning sign you are prone to sun damage and skin cancer
  • Appear as red, flattish, scaling dry skin that may sting if scratched
  • Appear on areas of skin most often exposed to the sun, like hands and face
  • Are most common in people over forty years.

Moles/Naevi

  • Harmless coloured spots that range from 1mm to 10mm in diameter
  • Uniform in shape and even-coloured
  • May be raised
  • The more moles or freckles that you have the higher your risk of sun damage
  • Need to be observed carefully for any sign of change.

Seborrhoeic keratoses

  • Spots with a clear edge; they look like they sit on top of the skin
  • Most people have a number of these spots by the age of sixty
  • Vary in colour from skin colour to brown or black
  • Vary in size from a few millimetres to 2 cm or even substantially larger.

Most skin cancer can be prevented by protecting yourself from the sun. Check your skin regularly. If you notice any new or unusual spots, or discover a spot that changes shape, colour or size, we can assess and diagnose the problem for you. Most skin cancers can be cured if treated early.

The Cancer Council have a description on how to check for signs of skin cancer. Click here to read more.

We would recommend that you see your GP for skin checks. However, if you have any suspicious lesions, you can request an appointment with Dr Bernard Leung  or call us on 02 6255 8988. A referral from your doctor is recommended.