What Do I Need To Know About Skin Cancer?

Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of seventy, making it the most prevalent form of cancer in Australia.

Early detection is critical to positive treatment outcomes, which is why everyone should be aware of the signs and symptoms of skin cancer, as well as how to reduce the risks of developing the disease. As we mark Skin Cancer Action Week in late November, let’s look at some of the most important facts about skin cancer symptoms and prevention.

The first signs of skin cancer are generally apparent in areas of your body that get lots of suns. This, however, isn’t a hard and fast rule, so if you notice any new moles, lesions, or growths anywhere on your body, we recommend seeing a doctor or dermatologist as soon as possible.

What Are the Different Types of Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is classified into three types: Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), and Melanoma. 

Basal cell carcinoma is one of the most common types of skin cancer and accounts for about 80% of all skin cancers diagnosed yearly. BCC manifests as small round or flat spots that are pale, red, or pearly in colour, usually in areas of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun.

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that can spread to the lymph nodes and organs. Surgery is usually the treatment of choice to remove cancer while preserving normal tissue. However, radiation therapy may also be needed, particularly in cases where surgery is not feasible. Signs of SCC include firm, red nodules that don’t go away or flat, scaly lesions that may crust over.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that starts in a cell called a melanocyte, which produces the pigment melanin and gives skin its colour. Sun exposure can damage melanocytes and cause them to overgrow. Over time, this can lead to the development of melanoma. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, as it is highly aggressive and will quickly spread throughout the body if not caught early. Things to watch for include moles that bleed or change in appearance, the development of large brown spots with darker speckles, and lesions anywhere on your body, including mucous membranes in your mouth or genitals that itch or burn and don’t heal.

How Can I Reduce My Risk of Skin Cancer?

The main thing you can do to reduce your risk of skin cancer is to avoid the harsh Australian sun. It’s a good idea to wear protective clothing and sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays. High-factor sunscreen is essential and should be worn every time you go outside. Stick to the shade and limit the amount of bare skin that is exposed as much as possible. Keep in mind the Slip, Slop, Slap rules:

  • Slip on protective clothing.
  • Slop on sunscreen every two hours.
  • Slap a hat on your head – the broader the brim, the better the protection.
  • Seek shade.
  • Slide on sunglasses.

While that bronzed glow might be tempting, tanning or tanning beds should be avoided at all costs. Studies have shown that regular use of tanning beds increases the risk of developing skin cancer.

Ultimately, when it comes to skin cancer, prevention is better than cure. Ensuring that you are keeping a close eye on your skin for any new moles or dark spots, and watching for changes to existing moles, are both keys to early detection. Indeed, you should be checking your skin regularly for any new growth or changes. Anything new or suspicious should be immediately checked by a medical professional.

How Is Skin Cancer Treated?

Surgery is the most common method for treating skin cancer. The cancer is removed under local anesthesia, with skin grafts often being used to close or reconstruct the area in question. In more minor cases, topical creams can be used in place of surgery. Radiation therapy, chemo, or immunotherapy may also be used after surgery.

How Can We Help?

Dr. Sally Ng is the Plastic Surgery Lead in the Skin and Melanoma Service at Austin Health and has vast experience in excising skin cancer, even after it has spread to other areas like the lymph nodes. Dr. Ng states that her goal as a surgeon is not only to ensure adequate clearance of any cancer but also to ensure that patients are pleased with their post-surgery appearance. If you’ve recently been diagnosed and want to discuss your treatment options, please get in touch.

For more information about the procedures offered by Dr. Sally Ng, please see here.

To schedule a consultation, please call (03) 9587 2048 or get in touch here.