A sunny climate, recreational lifestyle, and predominantly fair skinned population mean that skin cancer is a common problem in Australia.

Melanoma

Melanoma - Skin CancerMelanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer but non-melanoma skin cancer is more common. The two common forms of non-melanoma skin cancer are called basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

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Basal Cell Carcinoma – skin cancer

Basal Cell Carcinoma - Slon CancerA BCC is usually characterised by a flesh coloured or pink thickening of the skin. Close inspection may show a shiny, pearly quality. As the skin cancer develops it may become ulcerated: a sore that does not heal. BCCs usually occur about the head and neck, or upper trunk. They are often painless.

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Squamous Cell Carcinoma – skin cancer

Squamous Cell Carcinoma - Skin CancerSCCs occur in the most sun exposed sites of the skin: face, backs of hands, back of neck. They usually present as a tender, lumpy sore that progressively increases in size.

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Management of BCC and SCC skin Cancer

BCCs and SCCs are most often managed by surgical excision.  Sometimes radiotherapy is an option, and for some forms of BCC a cream has been developed.

Melanoma is a challenge and the best outlook is achieved with diagnosis and surgical removal at the earliest possible stage. Melanomas usually grow more quickly than common moles. Compared with common moles they usually show more variegation in colour and an irregular border. As a result of media awareness and public education programs, the trend is for melanoma to be diagnosed at an earlier stage then in the past. Thinner melanomas at diagnosis and removal have a better survival rate than thicker lesions as there is less chance of spread via blood stream or to lymph glands.

A sore that is not healing over weeks or months, or a spot on the skin that looks different from a common mole, is changing quickly, or is newly appearing, should be brought to medical attention.

The frequency of all forms of skin cancer is lower with reduced sun exposure, and “sunsmart” practices in work places , schools and activities of daily life are to be applauded.