Skin Cancer Facts
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world - two to three times the rates in Canada, the US and the UK.
More than 2,000 Australians die from skin cancer each year.
Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70.
The majority of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the UV radiation in sunlight.
There are three main types of skin cancer:
Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are known as non-melanoma skin cancer – These are more common in men, with almost double the incidence compared to women.
The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better. Superficial cancers can sometimes be treated non-surgically but most skin cancers need to be removed surgically. Sometime a doctor will do a biopsy first – where a small bit of tissue is taken and sent to a pathologist - to confirm the diagnosis before treatment is decided.
Become familiar with the look of your skin – this will help you to notice any changes that might suggest a skin cancer. Look 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).
Skin cancers are almost always removed. In more advanced skin cancers, some of the surrounding tissue may also be removed to make sure that all of the cancerous cells are gone.
Sun protection is the most important thing you can do to avoid skin cancer. UV radiation can still cause sunburn on overcast and cool days. A suntan or fake tan does not protect the skin from UV radiation damage.
There is currently no formal screening program for skin cancer in Australia. It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and for advice as to how often you should get your skin checked.