Skin cancer occurs when skin cells grow abnormally, often after the skin is exposed to the sun. Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer anywhere in the world. This is due largely to our climate, the fact that many of us have fair skin, and our proximity to the equator (high UV levels).
There are three major types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Other, less common types of skin cancer, include:
Read on to learn more about the three major types of skin cancers, their signs and treatment.
Basal cell skin cancer occurs in the basal cells, a type of skin cell that produces new cells as the old ones die. Basal cell skin cancer is the most common form of skin cancer.
Basal cell skin cancer usually occurs in sun-exposed areas of your body, such as your neck or face. It usually presents as a small, clear bump on the skin. Basal cell carcinoma may appear as a:
· Bump with a pearly appearance
· Flat brown or flesh-coloured lesion
· Bleeding or scabbing sore
Basal cell skin cancer is often treated with surgery to remove the cancer and some of the healthy tissue around it. Surgical options include:
Squamous cell skin cancer is the second most common form of skin cancer, after basal cell skin cancer. Squamous cell skin cancer is characterised by abnormal, accelerated growth of squamous cells, located near the surface of the skin.
Squamous cell skin cancer usually occurs on sun-exposed areas of the body, such as the face, ears and hands. People with darker skin are more likely to develop squamous cell skin cancer on areas that aren’t often exposed to the sun. Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as a:
· Firm red nodule
· Flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface
Most squamous cell skin cancers can be completely removed with relatively minor surgery. Surgical options include:
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in the melanocytes – a cell that produces and contains the pigment called melanin. Melanoma skin cancer is much less common than basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, however, it is far more dangerous as it is much more likely to spread to other parts of the body if it’s not caught early.
Melanoma tumours are usually brown or black, but they can also appear pink, tan or even white. They can look like:
· A large brownish spot with darker speckles
· A mole that changes in color, size or feel or that bleeds
· A small lesion with an irregular border and portions that appear red, pink, white, blue or blue-black
· A painful lesion that itches or burns
Surgery is the most common treatment for melanoma skin cancer, however its purpose varies depending on how far the cancer has progressed. For later-stage melanoma skin cancer, surgery is used as a diagnostic tool to assess how far the cancer has spread. Patients may require more invasive surgery to remove lymph nodes.
You can lower your risk of developing skin cancer by following some sun safety tips:
Avoid peak times of 12pm-2pm when the sun is at its highest, find a shady spot during this time.
In 2019 ACRF awarded $9.9M to the Diamantina Institute, The University of Queensland, to establish the Australian Centre of Excellence in Melanoma Imaging and Diagnosis (ACEMID). ACEMID aims to reduce the annual melanoma death toll by using sophisticated 3D imaging systems to produce whole-body scans that can be monitored over time. These scans create patient ‘avatars’, enabling melanoma to be detected earlier.
In addition to the $10M of ACEMID funding, ACRF has funded $7.08M in brilliant skin cancer research in Australia and provided seed-funding of $5M to Westmead Institute for Cancer Research to construct 2 word-class melanoma research laboratories in 2011.
New skin cancer research facilities and technology are innovating the way we prevent, detect and treat skin cancer. Your support is integral in bringing us closer to a world without cancer. The good news is, you can help back brilliant cancer research by donating today.