Doctor examines mole on neck of senior woman with magnifying glass.

Learn About: Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, yet it accounts for around 80 per cent of all new cases diagnosed in Australia each year.

Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70 and Queensland is infamously branded as having the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Around 136,000 Queenslanders are diagnosed with skin cancer each year – more than 3400 with melanoma and 133,000 with non-melanoma skin cancers.

It is important that Queenslanders regularly examine their skin for signs of skin cancer. Anyone can be at risk of developing skin cancer, though the risk increases as you get older. Others who are at risk include people with fair skin that burns easily, people who have had a lot of sun exposure over their lifetime or have multiple moles and freckles.

The good news is that the majority of skin cancers can be prevented by using adequate sun protection. Skin cancer occurs when the UV radiation in sunlight damages the DNA in the skin, causing cells to mutate and grow into cancers. Most skin cancers (including melanomas) are caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

The main types of skin cancer:

1. Melanoma

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. When detected and treated in its early stage melanoma is almost always treatable. Early-stage melanoma may be completely removed at the initial biopsy with no further treatment required. For a melanoma that has grown into the skin, a larger amount of tissue (skin) is required to be excised to ensure all the cancer cells have been removed.

2. Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

The most commonly found cancer on the skin. It is the least dangerous skin cancer; however, it is crucial these spots are checked by a doctor. It will spread locally causing tissue destruction, pain and disfigurement. BCC may be treated either by cryotherapy or excision, laser therapy and topical medications.

3. Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCC)

Generally found on the head and neck but can establish on other parts of the body. SCC can be completely removed with relatively minor surgery. If left unattended SCC may spread to other parts of the body.

4. Sun Spots

They often occur on sun-exposed areas, such as the nose, ears, face, chest, forearms and back of the hands. Other common names include actinic keratoses (AKs), solar keratosis, precancers and pre-skin cancers.

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