Three types of skin cancer

In Australia almost 1,900 people die from skin cancer and it accounts for 80% of all new cases of cancer diagnosed each year. Yet skin cancer is a preventable disease and the majority of skin cancers are treatable if detected early.

There are three types of skin cancer:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma

These are named after the type of cell they start from.


Basal cell carcinoma       

This is the most common type of skin cancer. It usually occurs on the upper body. These cancers are often red and slightly raised, with a scaly area that can bleed if knocked. They often become ulcerated as they develop. 
Squamous cell carcinoma                                                                                      This cancer grows over a period of weeks or months and may spread to other parts of the body if not treated promptly. It occurs most often (but not only) on areas exposed to the sun. This can include the head, neck, hands and forearms. This cancer looks like thickened, red, scaly spots. 



Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and is associated with a history of multiple sunburns. In Australia, 1,900 people die from this disease and over 12,500 new cases are diagnosed each year. Melanoma develops over weeks to months. If caught early, it is usually curable. However, if it spreads to other parts of the body, it can be very difficult to cure.  
Melanoma appears as a new spot or as an existing spot, lump, freckle or mole that changes colour, size or shape. It usually has an irregular, smudgy outline and is often more than one colour but can also appear as a grey button. Even mild sunburn, tanning and solariums can contribute to skin cell damage that can lead to melanoma. It is imperative to check skin regularly for any changes, especially hard to reach areas. Always practice Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide when in the sun. Apply SPF 50+ liberally to all exposed areas of skin. Melanoma's have even been found between the toes and on the palms!

If you have any concerns about a spot or mole that looks suspicious, please contact our clinic for a skin examination.


Note: Images and information sourced from Skin Cancer Foundation.  

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