Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged, as an example, from overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight.
There are 3 main types of skin cancer:
• Melanoma – the most dangerous type of membrane cancer
Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are referred to as non-melanoma membrane cancer.
Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with membrane cancer from the time they are 70, with over 434,000 people treated for one or more non-melanoma membrane cancers in Australia annually. 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 frequent cancer in males, and also the most common cancer in Australians aged 15-44 years.
Each Year, in Australia:
• skin cancers account for approximately 80 percent of all newly diagnosed cancers
• between 95 and 99 percent of skin cancers are caused by exposure to sunlight
• GPs have more than 1 million patient consultations annually for skin cancer
• The incidence of skin cancer is among the greatest in the world, two to three times the prices in Canada, the US and the United Kingdom.
*Non-melanoma skin cancers aren’t advised to cancer registries.
Assess for signs of skin cancer
The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the greater your odds of avoiding surgery or, in the event of a significant melanoma or other skin cancer, possible disfigurement or even death.
Additionally it is a good idea to speak with your doctor about your level of risk and also for information on early detection.
It is important to get to know your skin and what’s normal for you, so you observe any changes. Skin cancers rarely hurt and are a whole lot more often seen than felt.
Develop a routine habit of checking your skin for new stains and adjustments to existing freckles or moles.
The best way to check your skin
• be sure you check your whole body as skin cancers can occasionally occur in areas of the body not exposed to sunlight, such as bottoms of their feet, between fingers and toes and under nails.
• Undress completely and ensure you have good light.
• Use a mirror to test hard to find spots, like your scalp and back, or find a relative, spouse 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 areas of the body.
• Appears as a new place or an existing place that changes in colour, shape or size.
Can appear on skin not normally exposed to sunlight.
• appears 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.
• Most common, least dangerous type 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 sunlight.
Squamous cell carcinoma
• Grows over a few months, usually on areas frequently exposed to sunlight.
• More likely to happen in people over 50 years old.
ABCD melanoma detection manual
A is for Asymmetry – Search for stains that lack symmetry. In other words, if a line was drawn through the center, the two sides wouldn’t match up.
B is for Border – A place with a dispersing or irregular border (notched).
C is for Colour – Blotchy spots using numerous colours like blue, black, red, white or grey.
D is for Diameter – Look for stains which are getting bigger.
These are a few changes to look out for when assessing your skin for signs of any cancer:
• A summary of a mole which becomes notched.
• An area that changes color from brown to black or black is diverse.
• A place that becomes raised or develops a bulge within it.
• The surface of a mole getting rough, scaly or ulcerated.
• Spots that appears different from others.
Just about all people have moles. Moles aren’t normally present at birth, but look in childhood and early adolescent years. By age 15, Australian children have an average of more than 50 moles.
See your physician if a mole looks different or if a new mole appears after age 25. The more moles a person have, the greater the risk of melanoma.
• Uniform in form and even coloured.
• The more moles or freckles you’ve got the higher your chance of skin cancer.
• May have irregular borders and a number of colors like black and brown.
• Observe moles carefully for any indication of change.
Even though you may notice one or more skin changes, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that you have skin cancer however it’s important that you see your GP to get them investigated further. Your GP can talk about your skin cancer risk and advise you on your requirement for medical checks or self-examination.
It can be tricky to know whether something in your skin is a benign mole or standard sun damage, or a sign of cancer. When in doubt, talk to your GP.
What’s my skin type?
Skin types which are more sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) radiation burn more quickly and therefore are at a greater risk of skin cancer.
All skin types can be ruined by too much UV radiation. Skin types which 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 be careful 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 against UV radiation. This means the possibility of skin cancer is reduced.
High levels of UV radiation also have been associated with harmful effects on the immune system.
Individuals with very dark skin don’t typically 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 individuals with naturally very dark skin, since it’s more difficult for individuals with this skin type to generate vitamin D. People with naturally darker skin may need up to three to six times more sun exposure to aid with their vitamin D levels.
Tends to get freckles, red or fair hair, blue or green eyes.
Tends to have brown eyes and hair.
Rarely burns, frequently tans. Tends to have dark brown hair and eyes.
Dark brown skin. Rarely burns, tans profusely.
Deeply pigmented, dark brown to black skin. Never burns.