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About Skin Cancer

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged, for example, by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. There are three main types of skin cancer:

Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are known as non-melanoma skin cancer.

The Queensland Cancer Council states : “approximately, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70. Non-melanoma skin cancer is more common in men, with almost double the incidence compared to women.“

Again from our friends at the Queensland Cancer Council some annual statistics, “every year, in Australia:

Source Qld Cancer Council 2017

Skin Cancer Symptoms

It is a good idea to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and for advice on early detection. Annual Skin check ( or bi-annual for higher risk patients) can be a very useful tool for early detection of some skin cancers.

Become familiar with the look of your skin, so you pick up any changes that might suggest a skin cancer. Look for:

What are non-melanoma skin cancers?

Non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common cancers in Australia, however most are not life-threatening.

There are two main types: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. A third group of lesions called keratinocyte dysplasias includes solar keratosis, Bowenoid keratosis and squamous cell carcinoma in-situ (Bowen's disease). These are not invasive cancers, however may require treatment as some may develop into non-melanoma skin cancers.

In 2015 there were 642 recorded deaths in Australia from non-melanoma skin cancers.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

BCC accounts for about 70% of non-melanoma skin cancers. It begins in the lower layer of the epidermis (top, outer layer of the skin). It can appear anywhere on the body but most commonly develops on parts of the body that receive high or intermittent sun exposure (head, face, neck, shoulders and back).

Basal cell carcinoma symptoms

BCC often has no symptoms and tends to grow slowly without spreading to other parts of the body.

Symptoms of BCC may include:

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

SCC accounts for about 30% of non-melanoma skin cancers. It begins in the upper layer of the epidermis and usually appears where the skin has had most exposure to the sun (head, neck, hands, forearms and lower legs). SCC generally grows quickly over weeks or months.

Squamous cell carcinoma symptoms

Symptoms of SCC may include:

Causes of non-melanoma skin cancers

Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged, for example, by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Between 95% and 99% of skin cancers in Australia are caused by exposure to the sun. The risk of skin cancer is increased for people who have:

Diagnosis for non-melanoma skin cancers

If you notice any significant changes to your skin, your doctor may examine you. Diagnosis is by biopsy (removal of a small sample of tissue for examination under a microscope).

Warning : Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.