About Skin Cancer

The Australian sun is harsh and Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancers in the world. Sun exposure/ UV radiation is the cause of around 95% of melanoma and 99% of non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia.

The latest statistics from the Cancer Council show that 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with a form of skin cancer by the age of 70. And more than 1200 Australians die from melanoma every year, yet many of these death can be prevented.

As with all form of cancers, early detection and treatment provides the best chance of survival. And this always begins with a very thorough skin check.

It recommended that everyone who grew up in Australia should have a regular skin check. If you have never had a skin check, it is never too late to start having regular skin checks.

Your doctor will let you know how often you will need a skin check. Some patients will need a full skin check every 3-6 months, others every 12 months, and those with low risk may be recommended to have a skin check every 2-3 years.

3 most common types of skin cancer

Basal cell carcinoma

There are three common subtypes of basal cell carcinoma, and each one varies slightly on how they act and the areas you commonly find them in.

  • Infiltrating. This type of basal cell carcinoma is usually larger in appearance than you can see with your naked eye. Because of this fact, they are typically not found until they are significantly advanced, and this makes total removal difficult. It is not uncommon to see this type of cancer reoccur after treatment.
  • Nodular. This variation of basal cell carcinoma traditionally appears as a rounded bump or lump under a person’s skin. This type of skin cancer is usually very self-contained, and you don’t typically see the extensions into the other layers of the skin as you do with the other two types of basal cell carcinoma.
  • Superficial. Superficial basal cell carcinoma is a skin cancer that stays in the top layers of a person’s skin. This fact makes them easier to treat with non-surgical options. This type is known to become large if a person goes without treatment.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that starts to develop in the outer layers of an individual’s skin or the epidermis. It can present in several ways such as a scaly red patch, an elevated growth with a depression in the middle, scabs, or open sores. They may also crust over and bleed.

Common Areas for This Cancer to Develop

This type of skin cancer can be found all over a person’s body but it tends to be found more often in places that are more exposed to the sun on a regular basis.

  • Arms and Legs –In warmer weather, you usually expose your arms and legs to the sun to stay cool, and this gives the cancer a greater chance of developing.
  • Hands –A person’s hands are another common place for Squamous Cell Carcinoma to develop. Hands spend a lot of time exposed to UV rays.
  • Head and Neck- Your head is one of the most exposed places on your body. You can typically find Squamous Cell Carcinoma on the rims of people’s ears, their lips, on their face, or on their scalp if they have thinning hair. Finally, the neck is another common place to find this type of skin cancer.


Melanoma was the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia in 2018. It is estimated that it will become the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2022.  In 2022, it is estimated that more than 17,000 new cases of melanoma of the skin will be diagnosed in Australia. A person has a 1 in 17 risk of being diagnosed with melanoma of the skin by the age of 85

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops inside the skin’s pigment cells. Your skin’s pigment cells help to protect your skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation, or sunlight. A mole is the product of these pigment cells grouping together during an individual’s childhood. Normally, most moles are safe. However, when the pigment cells that make up the mole start to divide and grow at a very quick and uncontrolled pace, a Melanoma can form. This will generally go into the deeper layers of a person’s skin, or it’ll expand in an outward direction.

This type of cancer can be found all over a person’s body, but there are a few places that it is more common. You should be checking these places, especially checking the moles often.

  • Arms and Legs – Check your entire arm, including the underarm that doesn’t see as much UV exposure. Check your entire leg as well, including the soles of your feet.
  • Head –Your head is one of the parts of your body that gets the most UV exposure, and this is why you often find Melanoma on the scalp or the face. You should regularly be checking for any signs of skin cancer on your scalp.
  • Neck –Your neck also sees a lot of UV exposure, and this is another area that Melanoma presents. Again, regular checks can help you catch any problems early.
  • Trunk – Your chest, back, and your stomach are areas where you typically see a lot of moles forming.

If you notice a mole or a spot that is worrying you, you can try the ABCDE method to check and see if your mole has the typical indicators of being Melanoma:

A – Asymmetry – check that both halves of the mole match in appearance, or are symmetrical.

B – Borders – the borders of a melanoma are often uneven.

C – Color – a variety of colours, rather than one shade of brown, could be a warning sign.

D – Diameter – melanomas are usually larger than about a quarter of an inch.

E – Evolving – be very wary of a mole that evolves or changes in size, shape, colour or elevation, or starts to itch, bleed or crust over.

However, if you have any doubt, you should schedule a skin check as soon as possible.