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Skin cancer is usually found in fair-skinned people who are exposed to too much sun.

What are the main types of skin cancer? 

Basal Cell Carcinoma (“pearly growing lump”)

• the commonest and least dangerous type

• usually appears on the face and neck

• is easily treated

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (ulcerated crusty). 

• is quite dangerous

• appears on hands, forearms, face and neck

• can spread to other parts if left untreated too long

Melanoma

• the rarest and most dangerous type

• usually starts in a mole

• can occur anywhere on the body

What are signs of cancer?

• crusty non-healing sores or ‘sunspots’

• a persistent small lump that is red, pale or pearly in colour

• a new spot, freckle or mole that has changed colour, thickness or shape over months

What are the causes?

The main cause is exposure to the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun over a long time. Exposure to some chemicals, such as arsenic and polycyclic hydrocarbons, can cause skin cancer.

What are the areas to watch?

Watch your face, ears, neck, shoulders, arms and the backs of your hands. However, melanoma is an exception and can appear anywhere on the body.

Who is at risk of skin cancer? 

Fair-skinned people living in hot, sunny climates are most at risk. People with freckles and fair skin are especially at risk. It is most common in people of Celtic (Scottish, Irish and Welsh) background. It is not as common in people with very dark skin (of African, Indian and Asian origin). It is rare in Australian Aborigines. The darker the skin, the lower the risk of developing skin cancer. Those with fair, sensitive skin who burn easily and rarely tan are at greatest risk. Sunspots (solar keratoses) are dry, rough, persisting spots on the skin, which can change into skin cancer and need to be watched.

How is skin cancer prevented?

Protect yourself from the sun:

• Try to avoid direct sunlight when the sun is strongest (from 10 am to 3 pm standard time, i.e. from 11 am to 4 pm daylight-saving time). • Always wear a broad-brimmed hat, T-shirt and baggy shorts when in the sun.

• Be wary of reflected sun on cloudy days and wind that dries the skin.

• Use a factor 15+ sunscreen on exposed skin and renew it regularly.

• Make sure you protect yourself at high altitudes.

• Wear a shirt or dress with sleeves.

• Protect children from sunburn. Their skin is more sensitive than adults’ skin to sunlight

EARLY DETECTION  – The earlier you detect skin cancer, the simpler the treatment. The outlook for most skin cancers is excellent.

What can be done?

Go to your doctor without delay if you develop a skin lump. The doctor may want to remove part or all of it for examination in the laboratory.