Types of skin cancer
There are three main types of skin cancer: (in order of seriousness)
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Basal cell carcinoma
Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are known as non-melanoma skin cancer.
Is skin cancer serious?
Approximately, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70. > 750,000 people are treated for one or more non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia each year. Non-melanoma skin cancer is more common in men, with almost double the incidence compared to women. In 2014, 13,134 Australians were diagnosed with melanoma. In 2015, 2162 people died from skin cancer in Australia, 1520 from melanoma and 642 from non-melanoma skin cancers.
Skin cancer symptoms
Become familiar with your skin, so you can pick up any changes that might suggest a skin cancer.
- any crusty, non-healing sores ( > 2 months)
- 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.
Causes of skin cancer
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.
The majority of skin cancers in Australia are caused by exposure to sunlight.
The biggest causes of skin cancer are :
Factors which increase our risk of developing a melanoma:
- a fair complexion (including fair skin that burns or freckles easily, blue or green eyes, and blonde or red hair)
- exposure to sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet (UV) energy (e.g. tanning beds)
- a history of sunburns that caused blistering, especially in childhood
- having some large moles, many small moles, or moles that look different from normal moles
- a family history of unusual moles or melanoma
- a personal history of skin cancer, including melanoma
- xeroderma pigmentosum, a rare genetic condition that prevents the skin from repairing itself from UV damage
- exposure to certain environmental factors, including radiation, and some chemicals (e.g. solvents)
- a weakened immune system from disease or side effects of medicines
- age – about half the people who develop melanoma are older than 50
- sex of the patient – in Australia and New Zealand, melanoma is more common in men than in women.
Diagnosis for skin cancer
It is important to check your skin regularly and check with your doctor if you notice any changes. Your skin cancer doctor will be able to assess the lesion and determine what would need to be done.
Preventing skin cancer
Protect your skin
For best protection, when the UV level is 3 or above (note the NT’s average annual UV level is > 10).
Use a combination of sun protection measures: SLIP – SLOP - SLAP
- Put on sun-protective clothing covering as much skin as possible.
- Put on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF50+ sunscreen. Put it on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and reapply as per the recommendation of the sunscreen you use.
- Put on a broad brim hat which protects your face, head, neck and ears
- Seek shade
- Use sunglasses which comply with Australian standards.
Be extra cautious in the middle of the day when UV levels are most intense.
Our skin cancer Doctors are Dr Sajeel Samjowan and Dr Michael Paroulakis. Both of our doctors have undertaken further studies with the Australian College of Skin Cancer medicine and both of these doctors are accredited by the Australasian College of skin cancer medicine.
Our doctors will assist you in performing your skin check. They will then proceed to treat any problem lesions depending on the nature of the lesion. Treatment may involve surgical removal of the lesion with a simple excision or a more intricate procedure of a skin flap or graft. Treatment may also include any of the options listed above.
What’s involved in a skin check?
The doctor will start by asking you some questions to establish your skin cancer risk. Then the doctor proceeds to examine you. You will be examined from head to toe. It is advisable not to wear make up, as it can hinder a proper examination.
Go on - book your appointment today, don’t become a statistic.