What are the common types of skin cancer?

What is skin cancer? 

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). 

How many types of skin cancer are there? 

There are three major types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Other, less common types of skin cancer, include:

  • Kaposi sarcoma is a rare form of skin cancer that develops in the skin’s blood vessels and causes red or purple patches on the skin or mucous membranes.
  • Merkel cell carcinoma causes firm, shiny nodules that occur on or just beneath the skin and in hair follicles. Merkel cell carcinoma is most often found on the head, neck and trunk.
  • Sebaceous gland carcinoma is an uncommon and aggressive cancer originating in the oil glands. Sebaceous gland carcinomas, usually appearing as hard, painless nodules can develop anywhere, but most occur on the eyelid.

Read on to learn more about the three major types of skin cancers, their signs and treatment.

Basal Cell Skin Cancer 

What is Basal Cell Skin Cancer? 

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. 

What are the signs of Basal Cell 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 

How is basal cell skin cancer treated? 

Basal cell skin cancer is often treated with surgery to remove the cancer and some of the healthy tissue around it. Surgical options include:

  • Surgical excision: in this procedure, your doctor cuts out the cancerous lesion and a surrounding margin of healthy skin. The margin is examined under a microscope to be sure there are no cancer cells.
  • Mohs surgery: during Mohs surgery, the doctor removes the cancer layer by layer, examining each layer under the microscope until no abnormal cells remain. 

Squamous cell skin cancer

What is Squamous Cell Skin Cancer? 

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. 

What are the signs of squamous cell skin cancer?

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

How is squamous cell skin cancer treated?

Most squamous cell skin cancers can be completely removed with relatively minor surgery. Surgical options include:

  • Curettage and electrodessication: a procedure to remove the surface of the skin cancer with a scraping instrument (curet) and then searing the base of the cancer with an electric needle.
  • Laser therapy: an intense beam of light vaporizes growths, usually with little damage to surrounding tissue and with a reduced risk of bleeding, swelling and scarring.
  • Freezing: this treatment involves freezing cancer cells with liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery). It is the preferred option for treating superficial skin lesions. 

Melanoma skin cancer 

What is melanoma? 

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.

What are the signs of melanoma? 

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

How is melanoma treated? 

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.

How can you prevent skin cancer?

You can lower your risk of developing skin cancer by following some sun safety tips:

  • Avoid exposing your skin to the sun, and don’t tan!
  • Wear protective clothing like long sleeve shirts and wetsuits in the water.
  • Wear sunscreen every day, even if it’s overcast. A broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays should be reapplied every 2 hours when your skin is exposed to sun.

Avoid peak times of 12pm-2pm when the sun is at its highest, find a shady spot during this time.

What skin cancer research has ACRF funded?

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

Australian melanoma rates improve

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A study found that rates of invasive melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have started to decline in Australia and are predicted to keep falling over the next 15 years.

Researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have found that Australia no longer has the highest per capita rates of invasive melanoma in the world, after being overtaken by New Zealand.

Researchers compared the rates of melanoma in six populations over a 30-year period from 1982 to 2011. The six populations were Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, and the caucasian population of the United States.

The researchers found that melanoma rates in Australia increased from about 30 cases per 100,000 people in 1982 and peaked at nearly 49 cases per 100,000 people in 2005. The rates then declined to about 48 cases per 100,000 people in 2011. Invasive melanoma rates in New Zealand reached about 50 cases per 100,000 people in 2011.

Professor David Whiteman, who led the study, said Australia was the only one of the six populations where melanoma rates had begun to fall overall.

“We think the main reason for this decline is that Australia has put a huge effort into primary prevention campaigns since the 1980s,” Professor Whiteman said.

“Australians have become more ‘sun smart’ as they have become more aware of the dangers of melanoma and other skin cancers. Schools, workplaces and childcare centres have also introduced measures to decrease exposure to harmful UV radiation.”

“This has contributed to a decline in melanoma rates in people under the age of about 50.”

“Unfortunately, rates of melanoma are still increasing in people over the age of about 50. This is probably because many older people had already sustained sun damage before the prevention campaigns were introduced, and those melanomas are only appearing now, many decades after the cancer-causing exposure to sunlight occurred.”

Despite the fall in average melanoma rates per 100,000 people, the overall number of invasive melanomas diagnosed in Australia is still rising and is expected to increase from 11,162 cases per year from 2007-2011, to 12,283 cases per year from 2012-2016.

Professor Whiteman said this was due to the ageing of the Australian population, as well as overall population growth.

“Melanomas occur most commonly in older people. As Australia’s population ages, the number of melanomas diagnosed will continue to increase,” he said.

“The picture in Australia at the moment is mixed. While it’s good news that average melanoma rates have started to fall, the fact that the actual number of cases is still rising is bad news.”

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported cancer research at QMRI Berghofer by providing three grants, totalling AUD 6.65million towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.

Beneath the surface of skin cancer patients

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Here at the ACRF we are proud to equip Australia’s leading cancer researchers with the resources they need to end cancer.

Recently, a team of researchers from the University of Queensland discovered a protein that helps to control an important process in cell adhesion that is disrupted when someone contracts a disease such as skin cancer.

The researchers said that the Australian Cancer Research Foundation Cancer Biology Imaging Facility at UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) played a vital role in this research.

It is currently one of the largest and most comprehensively equipped facilities in Australia for both the imaging and screening of chemical and biological libraries.

The facility was founded in 2010 with a $2.5 million ACRF grant and is home to 23 high-performance microscopes and supporting image data analysis workstations.

PhD student Rashmi Priya at IMB says that what the research has done is clarify the role of the protein myosin in tissue integrity.

“The protein Myosin is found at cell connection points and we now know that it plays a crucial role in regulating how cells stick together to form tissues in the body,” she said.

“Our research has shown that this is because myosin protects a switch that acts as a stabiliser. This switch must be very tightly controlled as it affects many processes within the body. Too much or too little of this switch, or having it in the wrong place, can lead to diseases such as skin cancer, says Priya.”

Professor Alpha Yap, who led the research team, says “The cells in all the tissues of our body die and have to be replaced as regularly as every 24 hours in the intestinal system. For this to happen, adhesion between cells must be carefully broken down and rebuilt, and we now have a better understanding of what it is that’s controlling this whole process.”

The original article was published on the Institute for Molecular Bioscience website, click here to read more.

New melanoma treatment triggers 20-fold improvement

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Studies conducted by cancer scientists at The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute (UQDI) have found a new experimental drug called Anisina significantly increases the effectiveness of existing therapies used to treat melanoma.

Around 12,500 Australians are diagnosed each year with malignant melanoma and it is responsible for over 1,500 deaths. It is a notoriously difficult cancer to treat, due to the number of mutations that make the cancerous cells difficult to target.

Errors in the ‘BRAF’ gene have been identified as among the most prominent mutations, and two drugs that target ‘BRAF’ (vemurafenib and dabrafenib) have been developed and approved for use in recent years.

However no targeted therapy exists for the 50% of melanoma patients whose tumors do not have this most prominent mutation. As a result, developing a new drug that is effective across all mutations has become a focus in current cancer research.

Cancer scientists have found that when Anisina is partnered with existing drugs it helps destroy two key parts of the cancer cell’s skeleton, resulting in a 20-fold increase in the anti-cancer effect of the other drugs. This benefits all melanoma patients fighting cancer as the new drug targets melanoma cells regardless of their mutational status.

Nikolas Haass MD PhD conducted the research studies along with Brian Gabrielli PhD.

Dr. Haass said, “These findings from the preliminary screen with Anisina are exciting. Finding a compound that is equally effective against a wide panel of melanoma cell types irrespective of the genetic background has been a long-held goal.”

Justine Stehn PhD, Novogen Anti-Tropomyosin Program Director, said, ” The idea that we now have a means of making melanoma cells respond to potent anticancer drugs is an exciting development for patients with melanoma.”

Plans are now underway to bring Anisine into the clinic by early 2016.

The ACRF is proud to have provided $6.2 million to support the work of UQDI’s world-class researchers in recent years.

This information was originally published by Novogen website and can be found here.

Non-invasive laser technology could help bypass the need for biopsies

911561-melanomaEngineers and researchers from the University of Queensland have collaborated with the University of Leeds in England to create a new method of skin cancer detection that bypasses the need for biopsies.

Lead researcher, Dr Yah Leng Lim, from The University of Queensland’s School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, is a key member of the team that developed the ground-breaking laser imaging system that safely provides a different view of skin structure.

Continue reading “Non-invasive laser technology could help bypass the need for biopsies”

Starving cells could treat one of Australia’s deadliest diseases

Australia has the highest rate of melanoma, globally. It is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and is the third most common cancer type in Australia.

But Australian researchers at the Centenary Institute have bought hope to this statistic through the discovery that we could potentially treat, and even cure, melanoma by cutting off its food source.

Last year the same team of researchers, led by Professor Jeff Holst, showed they could starve prostate cancer cells. This discovery has opened up the prospect of a class of drugs that could treat a range of cancers, including melanoma, in the same way.

Continue reading “Starving cells could treat one of Australia’s deadliest diseases”

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: How ACRF Is Outsmarting Women’s Cancers this October

October is known around the world as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The aim of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is to increase awareness of breast cancer and the impact it has as well as to raise much needed funds. To celebrate breast cancer awareness month, people engage in fundraising activities and purchase pink merchandise to raise money for this fantastic cause.

At ACRF however, we refer to October as our “Women’s Cancer Month” – a time where we raise awareness and much needed funds for all types of cancer that affect Australian women, as cancer statistics show 1 in 4 Australian women will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 75.

Why we are determined to find better prevention, detection and treatment methods for women’s cancers

At ACRF, we are committed to improving prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all types of cancer. That is why, this October we are focusing on all cancers that affect women, not just breast cancer.

Every day up to 50 women in Australia are diagnosed with breast or gynaecological cancer. These cancer types include uterine, cervical, vulva and ovarian – cancers which are sometimes forgotten and unfortunately under-funded. Then there are other common women’s cancers which we need to remember this October: these include; bowel, lung and skin cancers.

We are committed to funding research through our grants and research projects into these cancer types, bringing new hope to our mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins and friends around the world.

Continue reading “October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: How ACRF Is Outsmarting Women’s Cancers this October”

May 2013 Monthly News

In the May 2013 edition:

  • Skin cancer drug targets ‘growth’ gene with potential to treat other disease.
  • Your chance to run the International Marathon that’s closest to home: the Auckland Marathon.
  • We celebrate workplace giving month in June.
  • #ThisIsWhyWeFight social movement launch!

$7.5 million in funding to the most promising cancer research in the country!

Funding research - current cancer researchThe Australian Cancer Research Foundation is committed to fighting cancer by funding research, tonight investing a further $7.5 million into the search for the cures.

At the cancer charity’s annual Chairman’s Dinner in Sydney, donors, fundraisers and researchers came together to celebrate the incredible research outcomes made possible through ACRF funding.

They also acknowledged the promising future of cancer research in Australia, as the ACRF made multi-million dollar grants available to three visionary research projects.

The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, and Brisbane’s Diamantina Institute and Centre for Clinical Research all received a significant funding boost of $3.5 million and $2 million each, respectively. At these cancer research centres, the ACRF will be funding research into rare cancers, as well as facilitating world-class, targeted detection and treatment programmes.

Melanoma Genome Project will map out future for skin cancer cures

Melanoma cancer researchNSW Minister for Health and Medical Research, the Hon. Jillian Skinner has today officially launched the Australian Melanoma Genome Project, an ambitious cancer research program that aims to identify the common gene mutations that lead to melanoma.

The $5.5 million project could take 2-5 years and is being undertaken by a research coalition of teams from the Melanoma Institute Australia, the University of Sydney, Westmead Millennium Institute, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW Health Pathology and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research.

More than 500 melanoma tumour samples will be screened and analysed in order to determine common genetic characteristics for this most deadly and prevalent type of cancer. Continue reading “Melanoma Genome Project will map out future for skin cancer cures”

New drug could boost brain cancer survival

Melanoma discovery at Westmead Institute for Cancer ResearchAustralian researchers have reported promising results from a new drug which could help prolong the life of people diagnosed with one of the most deadly forms of brain cancer.

Until now, patients with advanced melanoma that has spread to the brain have received a dire diagnosis. They survive only for an average of four months.

But cancer researchers at the University of Sydney, Melanoma Institute Australia, Sydney’s Westmead Hospital and the ACRF-funded Westmead Millennium Institute, have for the first time found a drug which shrinks brain tumours in these patients with advanced melanoma.

Dr Georgina Long of the University of Sydney said the drug, called Dabrafenib, works by targeting a gene mutation found in many melanoma cancers. The drug works by causing the cell to stop multiplying and in many cases it shrinks and disappears. Continue reading “New drug could boost brain cancer survival”

Discovery motivates new cancer research into melanoma risk


Two ACRF-funded cancer research centres have worked in collaboration to discover a mutant gene that increases the risk of melanoma in approximately 200,000 Australians.

The gene, known as MITF, is known for regulating pigmentation – turning the skin brown after exposure to the sun, for example.

But cancer researchers at the Westmead Institute of Cancer Research (a 2011 ACRF grant awardee) together with the Queensland Institute of Medical Research have found that in many Australians, MITF is mutated, working abnormally to increase the risk that sunlight or other causes will cause malignant melanomas by 250%. Continue reading “Discovery motivates new cancer research into melanoma risk”

Professor Frazer seeks vaccine for skin cancer

Professor Ian FrazerChair of the ACRF Medical Research Advisory committee (and co-creator of the cervical cancer vaccine), Professor Ian Frazer is currently working on a world-first strategy to combat skin cancer.

“This group of cancers (skin cancers)…may be started off by a virus infection – which presents a great opportunity, because the idea of vaccinating to prevent a cancer is enormously appealing,” Professor Frazer said.

Professor Frazer believes some virus types, including the wart virus or HPV, are embedded in the layers of the skin, and they pose a skin cancer risk when people with damaged or weak immune systems are overexposed to the sun. Continue reading “Professor Frazer seeks vaccine for skin cancer”

ACRF to Benefit From Historic Sporting event

Two outrigger canoes soon plan to cross-treacherous Bass Strait to raise awareness and money for the Australian Cancer Research Foundation and in doing so will be the first canoes to ever attempt such a feat.

Manned by two crews of six the historic crossing, starting April 10, is also being made to honour two men.

One of these is Peter Corbishley who has personally built more than 300 racing outrigger canoes in Australia over the past 20 years. He has made an enormous contribution to the sport here in Australia and his canoes have even been exported to teams in Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Tahiti, Samoa and New Zealand.

After making canoes for many years in his factory in the Whitsundays Peter moved his operation down to Tweed Heads and it was here he finally picked up a paddle and began training and competing in the sport he has contributed so much to.

Earlier last year Peter was diagnosed with Non Hodgkinsons T-Cell Lymphoma a rare and terminal form of skin cancer. As a sign of respect and to honour Peter’s contribution to the sport the plan is to paddle with Peter in one of the canoes he has made across Bass Strait. Peter will be part of the crew to raise awareness for cancer and to raise money in aid of Cancer research and to also prove that there is life after diagnosis.

Continue reading “ACRF to Benefit From Historic Sporting event”

Interesting Facts About Skin Cancer and Melanoma | ACRF

As a country, Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer and melanoma in the world. The majority of those with skin cancer or melanoma is due the exposure to UV radiation in the form of sunlight.

Skin Cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the tissues of the skin. While Melanoma is a cancer that begins in the melanocytes.

Skin Cancer and Melanoma interesting facts

With these cancers so prominent in Australia, it is important you know all the facts. To help, here are some interesting facts on skin cancer and melanoma:

Skin Cancer interesting facts:

  • There are three main types of skin cancer, all strongly related to sun exposure, and all extremely common in Australia.
  • The first two, are the most common forms of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas
  • Each year more than 374,000 people in Australia are diagnosed with the: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
  • These two diseases are the least life-threatening and fortunately are very slow to spread. There are ways to prevent most non-melanoma skin cancers and to detect them early when they do arise before they have a chance to threaten function and life. When treated early, the vast majority of these cancers are curable.
  • Most people who are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancers are age 50 or older, but because these diseases often are a result of too much exposure to the sun, everyone — even the youngest toddlers — should take precautions against them.
  • In Denmark each year, there are approximately 13,000 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed: 12,000 are non-melanoma basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma cancers, seen mostly in elderly people. The remainder are melanomas, and most often this cancer strikes young people between 20 and 30 years old
  • Over 90% of all cases of skin cancer in Denmark sun responsible for all cases of skin cancer, perhaps because of the impact of exposure to ultraviolet light in people with the northern hemisphere fair skin type.

Melanoma interesting facts:

  • Melanoma, which arises in the same cells in the skin that give rise to moles, is the most aggressive form of skin cancer, and one of the most aggressive of all types of human cancer. It is now the second most common cancer in men and women in NSW.
  • Melanoma – is more common in Australia than any other country. The melanoma incidence rates in Australia and New Zealand are around four times higher than those found in Canada, the UK and the US and up to ten times higher than in other countries.
  • Melanoma causes more productive years of life lost than most cancers because there are a large number of people affected in earlier life.
  • Melanoma risk is highest in the lower latitude areas where there are high levels of ambient UV.
  • Excluding melanoma, Tasmania has the highest incidence rate for all cancers combined and the highest mortality rates for both males and females while NSW has the lowest mortality rates.
  • Most melanomas are treatable if detected early However, mortality rates for melamona in Australia are quite low compared to other countries.

Causes of Skin Cancer and Melanoma

  • Australia has an incidence many times higher than most other Western countries, and this is thought mainly to be due to very high levels of environmental ultraviolet light exposure in people with northern fair skins.
  • Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the single most important cause of skin cancer, especially when the overexposure resulted in sunburn and blistering. Other, less common causes of skin cancer include repeated exposure to x-rays and exposure to coal tar, arsenic, and other industrial compounds.

Facts about people who are at high-risks of Skin Cancer and Melanoma

  • The lifetime melanoma risk for the average Australian is about one in 25. However, a combination of genetics, environment, and lifestyle can make the development of melanoma much more common in some people.
  • The main risk for getting melanoma seems to be episodic severe sunburning in childhood and teenage years
  • People who sunburn easily and tan poorly, people with a family or personal history of melanoma, and those with weakened immune systems are at higher-than-average risk for developing melanoma
  • Sunlight provides much that is beneficial and even necessary to life and good health. Tanning and burning, however, are not among those benefits — there is no such thing as a “healthy tan.”
  • Although it’s clear that UV radiation can damage DNA, and that high levels of sun exposure are associated with melanoma risk, the exact relationship between UV exposure and melanoma remains unclear.
  • Over the past decade, researchers have discovered that the tanning response begins only after DNA in skin cells has been damaged by exposure to sunlight.
  • Other, less common causes of skin cancer include repeated exposure to x-rays and exposure to coal tar, arsenic, and other industrial compounds.
  • Although the exact wavelengths and timing of the solar radiation associated with different types of skin cancer are under investigation, the basic preventive lesson remains the same: protect your skin from the sun.

Skin Types

  • It is interesting to note that human beings almost certainly all started off with black skins, but as they migrated to areas with low sunlight, they evolved to have fairer skins because this gave them the advantage of being able to make vitamin D under conditions of lower sunlight exposure. Vitamin D is activated in the skin under the influence of sunlight and is essential for bone health.
  • Such changes in skin colour take place over millions of years, and the descendants of the Caucasian people who migrated to Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries obviously still have the fair skin of their ancestors which means that they generally tan poorly, and burn easily.

Treatment of Melanoma

  • Melanoma is usually treated with surgical removal of the primary tumor.
  • Melanoma cells tend to invade the bloodstream, migrate, and lodge in distant organs such as the liver, lung and brain, where they form secondary tumours that are often untreatable.
  • Treatment of more advanced melanoma could involve radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.
  • Secondary or “metastatic” melanoma occurs commonly in young adults, and fewer than 5% of people with metastatic melanoma survive two years.
  • As yet we have no effective drug treatments and most medical care is directed towards comfort and palliation.

Facts about basal cell carcinoma

  • The most common cancer in humans worldwide.
  • Basal cell carcinomas are most often found on the face, neck, hands, or other parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun.
  • Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the single most important cause of skin cancer, especially when the exposure resulted in sunburn and blistering.
  • This type of cancer can have many different appearances: a red patch or irritated area; a small, pink pearly bump; a white or yellow scar-like area; a smooth growth with a dent in the center; or an open sore that bleeds or oozes.
  • Basal cell carcinomas rarely spread throughout the body and deaths from them are very rare; however, because they often occur on the face, their locally destructive effects can result in serious cosmetic deformity if not diagnosed and treated early.
  • Basal cell carcinomas are highly curable with both surgical and non-surgical therapy. Treatment options may include curettage and electrodesiccation, radiation therapy, standard excision, and other individualized approaches.

Facts about squamous cell carcinomas

  • Squamous cell carcinomas account for about 20 percent of skin cancers in Australia and have an excellent cure rate when detected early.
  • They arise from the upper levels of the epidermis, usually in places that have been exposed to the sun.
  • Squamous cell carcinomas are most commonly found on the ears, the face, and the mouth. They tend to occur in people who are slightly older than those who get basal cell tumors.
  • Often it comes from a precancerous lesion known as keratosis (sometimes called solar keratosis), which appears as a rough, flat pink spot. If the lesion becomes cancerous, it is raised above the normal skin surface.
  • Squamous cell tumors tend to be more aggressive than basal cell tumors, and are slightly more likely to spread to other parts of the bod
  • Most squamous cell carcinomas can be cured with minor surgery. Treatment options may include curettage and electrodesiccation, radiation therapy or standard excision.
  • Overexposure to UV radiation (UVB radiation in particular) is the most common risk factor associated with squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the single most important cause of skin cancer, especially when the exposure resulted in sunburn and blistering.


Professor Richard Kefford, Westmead Millenium Institute

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre website at http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/390.cfm