Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australia. Skin cancer is a disease of the body’s skin cells caused mainly by cumulative exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun. Cancer is a group of diseases in which cells are aggressive (grow and divide without respect to normal limits), invasive (invade and destroy adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastatic (spread to other locations in the body).
In Australia, skin cancers account for around 80 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers, with between 95-99 per cent of those being caused by exposure to the sun.
There are three main types of skin cancer:
- Melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer; and
- The non-melanoma skin cancers:
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole. This 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.
Things to look out for:
- any crusty, non-healing sores
- small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour
- new spots, freckles or any moles changing in colour, thickness or shape over a period of weeks to months (especially those dark brown to black, red or blue-black in colour).
The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better your chance of avoiding large surgery or, in the case of a serious melanoma or other skin cancer, potential disfigurement or even death.