Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer Detection & Treatment 

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australia. Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70. Each year in Australia over 2,000 people die from skin cancer, yet most skin cancers are preventable and the majority of skin cancer can be successfully treated, if found early.

Early detection improves survival and other better outcomes. National screening programs for cancers have contributed to substantial declines in associated mortality during last decade in Australia. 

SKIN CANCERS are categorized as either Non- Melanoma (NMSC) OR Melanoma.

Non-Melanoma refers to a group of skin cancers that affect the upper layers of skin.  Melanoma is a rare and serious type of cancer that begins in the skin and can spread to other organs in the body.

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer (NMSC)

Non-melanoma skin cancers are usually named after the type of skin cell from which they develop. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). 

Basal Cell Carcinoma

BCC generally appear as small, pink reddish bumps, nodules, patches, spots or scars. They are most often found in UV exposed areas of the skin but can also be found on other skin areas such as the trunk.


Squamous Cell Carcinoma – SCC

Squamous cell carcinomas can look similar to basal cell carcinomas but are usually more scaly and stand out further from the surface of the skin. Due to this, squamous cell carcinomas often occur on the head and neck, and other UV exposed areas such as the ears, lips, and the back of hands and arms.

It is the early stage of SCC that appears as a persistent, slow-growing, red and scaly skin patch. Bowens skin cancer is located only in the epidermis, the uppermost layer of the skin. If detected early, it can be destroyed if properly removed.

Melanoma Skin Cancer

(Skin Melanoma Photo Credit: Public Domain NCI Images)

Melanoma is a less common but the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

Although melanoma makes up only 4% of skin cancers, it causes 77% of skin cancer deaths.

About 100,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year.

The most commonly diagnosed cancer among adolescents and young adults is melanoma; it counts for more than one-quarter of all cancers among Australians aged 15 – 29 years.

Surgery is the main option for most melanomas, and usually cures early stage melanomas.

Queenslander has the highest rate of melanoma in the world, carrying an estimated risk of 1 in 16 men and 1 in 24 women.

Every year in Australia, around 1,200 people die from skin cancer and melanomas. The sad thing is that skin cancer is a preventable and readily treatable form of cancer. In fact, 95% of skin cancers are curable if they are detected early.

The appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole can happen anywhere on the body, but most often on the back, legs, arms, and face.

In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and have more than one colour.

They may also be larger than normal moles and can sometimes be itchy or bleed.

Please contact the Surgery if you notice any change to your moles.


There are three main types of skin cancer. The most serious is melanoma. Like all body tissues our skin is made up of cells: basal cells, squamous cells and melanocytes. Skin cancer types are named after the skin cell in which the cancer develops: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Carcinoma is another word for cancer. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are often grouped together and called ‘common’ skin cancers.


Skin cancer generally stands out as being quite different to surrounding skin. If a spot strikes you as being a bit odd, take it seriously – it is worth to getting it checked out. Skin cancer mostly appears as a new and unusual looking spot. It may also appear as an existing spot that has changed in colour, size or shape.


Any new or strange looking moles should be shown to a doctor as soon as possible.

Many melanomas are caused by excess sun exposure. The more time you spend in the sun, the higher your chance of getting this type of cancer. Especially if you spent much time in the sun as a child. You are also at greater risk if you have:

  • Had severe blistering sunburns, especially as a child;
  • Fair skin;
  • Many moles or with atypical moles (dysplastic nevi);
  • A family history of melanome;
  • Had melanoma before.

Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin. When it is on the skin, it is called cutaneous melanoma.

  • Men usually get it on the front and back part of the body between the shoulders and the hips, called the trunk. They may also get it on their head or neck.
  • Women most commonly get melanoma on their legs.

Sometimes, melanoma may occur on areas that are rarely exposed to sunlight, such as the soles of the feet, mouth, or sinuses. Another unusual place for melanoma is under the nail beds of fingers and toes. Less often, melanoma can occur in the genital area, in the eyes or other organs.

There is no sure way to prevent melanoma. The best way to protect yourself from melanoma is to avoid getting a lot of sun. When going outside, everyone should use these tips to protect themselves:

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF (sun protection factor) 30 or higher. Coat yourself with sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside. Reapply at least once every 2 hours.
  • Seek shade when the sun is strongest, between 10 am and 4 pm. This is especially important if you live in an area of high sun intensity.
  • If you are going to be in the sun, wear long-sleeved shirts, long-pants, and a wide-brimmed hat. Fabrics with a tight weave give the best sun protection. Special sun-protective clothing is now available as well.
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection.

Everyone should check their skin often for any new, strange or changing moles or other lesions. If you have more than 50 moles or have been told you have atypical or dysplastic moles, see a dermatologist regularly to have your skin checked. About 10% of people with melanoma have family members with it. If you have close relatives who have had melanoma, you have a higher chance of getting it. Have your skin checked by a doctor more often. And, take extra care to avoid the sun.


The first sign of melanoma may be a new mole or one that changes in size, shape or colour. The ABCD traits may suggest a melanoma are: asymmetry, border, colour and diameter. Asymmetry – means that the 2 halves of the mole do not look that same. The border or edges of a mole that is a melanoma is sometimes blurred and ragged. The colour of a melanoma is sometimes uneven. The colour of a melanoma may be different shades of black, brown, pink, white, red or blue. The diameter is the measurement across a melanoma from one side to the other side. If a mole is melanoma, it may be bigger. Melanomas are usually larger than the eraser of a pencil.

Skin from another part of the body is used to replace skin that was removed during surgery. The skin is usually taken from the back or thigh. The surgeon stitches it to the area where the melanoma was removed.


If you have had melanoma, see your doctor regularly for the rest of your life. The risk of getting it getting it again (or getting another skin cancer) is much higher than in those who haven’t had it. Many doctors recommend that people with melanoma see their doctor every 6 months for the first few years after the diagnosis. If there is no evidence that the melanoma has come back after a few years, then they can see doctor once a year.

Skin Cancer Enquiry