About Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all cancers. The main cause is over exposure to sunlight, especially sunburn. Family history is also an important risk factor.
In the treatment of any skin cancers, early detection and removal is the best defence.
Types of skin cancer
Our highly qualified doctors will ensure that any skin cancer concerns you may have, are answered openly and without lots of medical jargon.
The team at the Strathpine Super Skin Clinic are highly trained skin cancer experts, with the skills and confidence to diagnose and treat your needs.
There are a range of treatment options available which depend on the type and severity of the case. Treatments can be either surgical or non-surgical.
Skin Cancer Services
Our highly qualified doctors will ensure that any skin cancer concerns you may have, are answered openly and without lots of medical jargon. They’ll guide you through the steps for a full skin check and recommend further follow up tests if necessary. And if you are diagnosed with a form of skin cancer you can be confident it will be treated with utmost skill in our state-of-the-art consulting rooms and theatres.
The first steps
We recommend that all Australian adults have a regular full skin check that includes dermoscopy. This involves the doctor examining your skin, from head to toe, using simple magnification, dermoscopy and digital dermoscopy. Usually, it can be done while you’re in your underwear. Of course, if you wish, areas normally covered by underwear can also be examined.
What is dermoscopy?
Dermoscopy is the use of a special skin microscope, which allows the doctor to see beneath the skin. The ability to see elements deep within the skin provides the doctor with more information to make a decision regarding a suspicious skin lesion or mole.
Computerised or digital dermoscopy can be used to save images for future comparisons. This provides even more information for the doctor to use when analysing skin marks. Our practice is equiped with the latest molemax machines.
Not only does this lead to an earlier detection of skin cancer, but also prevents unnecessary cutting out of a skin lesion or mole that then turns out to be harmless.
When should I have the skin test?
Winter is a good time for full skin checks that involve dermoscopy. Most people’s skin is covered up during the winter months, which minimises sun exposure to the skin lesions or moles. This means the doctor can make a more accurate assessment of your skin. Even short but intense periods of sun-exposure can cause a mole to change, which can make a normal mole appear suspicious.
Types of Skin Cancer
Superficial Spreading Melanoma
This is the most common type of melanoma making up about 50% of all melanomas diagnosed. This melanoma usually appears as a dark spot with irregular borders that spreads across the skin.
Most dangerous melanoma as they are often very thick when diagnosed. Nodular is one of the most rapidly growing typesof melanoma. It appears as a raised lump or‘nodule’ and can be brown, black, pink or red incolouring, or have no colour at all. About 15% of allmelanomas are nodular.
Lentigo Maligna Melanoma
Most commonly found in elderly patients, usually on the face or neck. It begin as large freckles. This type of melanoma makes up 10% of all melanomas .
The earliest form of melanoma and completely curable with complete excision.
Acral is a rare type of melanoma that tends to grow on the palms of hands, soles of the feet or under the nails (subungual). It accounts for about 3% of all melanomas.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common skin cancer, typically found on the ear, face, lips, hands or lower legs. SCC is more dangerous than basal cell carcinoma because of its ability to spread to other parts of the body. The pre-invasive phase, SCC in situ, is often called Bowen's disease.
Bowen's disease characteristically presents with one or more dry or crusted red or brown patches. Invasive SCC usually grows within a solar keratosis (scaly spots due to sun damage) and presents as a tender scaly or ulcerated lump. Invasive SCC needs to be attended to promptly as there is a risk of secondary spread.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common cancer in the world. Despite this, very few people die from BCC. The two most common types are nodular and superficial BCC which are easily treatable.
The nodular type of BCC appears as a slowly-growing, shiny white, pink or discoloured bump, most often on the face or neck.
The superficial type of BCC presents as one or more irregular red scaly patches growing on the trunk or limbs.
It is important for the average adult to regularly check their skin for new moles or any changes to existing moles.
Although it is rare for moles to become cancerous, the earlier that cancerous moles are spotted and treated, the better the chances that treatment will be successful.
That said if you have any concerns or doubts as to the condition of a mole or group of moles, or if you have many moles (more than other people you know) then it is essential that you seek professional advice as soon as possible.
Self assessment of moles
You can check your own skin for moles, using a mirror to check those hard to reach places that you cannot see directly. Alternatively, you can get your partner or a parent to check your back and neck for you.
You can get moles anywhere on your body, but you will soon learn where your moles are, and so checking them becomes a quick and easy process.
A note of caution though. The fact that early treatment for malignant melanoma is so important can lead to people becoming over anxious about their moles. However, moles generally change quite slowly, with differences taking several weeks or even months to appear, so you should not get obsessive about checking your skin.
If you do not have any particular risk factors, checking your moles should take 15 minutes every one to three months.
Checking existing moles and spotting new moles
You should look out for the common warning signs that might indicate pre-cancerous or cancerous changes to your moles. To make it easier to assess your own moles, you can use the ABCDE method as a checklist:
A – asymmetry – most moles are round or oval in shape so look out for odd shapes.
B – border irregularity – most moles have a smooth edge to them so look out for ragged edges.
C – colour change – most moles are brown and only one or two colours so look out for colour changes or new shades appearing.
D – diameter – most moles will remain the same size, usually less than 5mm so look out for increases in size, especially beyond 5mm.
E – elevated – most moles are flat or slightly raised so look out for moles that become raised.
How to do it
Examine your face, especially the nose, lips, mouth, and ears – front and back. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view.
Thoroughly inspect your scalp, using a blow dryer and mirror to expose each section to view. Get a friend or family member to help, if you can.
Check your hands carefully: palms and backs, between the fingers and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both front and back of your forearms.
Standing in front of the full-length mirror, begin at the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms. Don’t forget the underarms.
Next focus on the neck, chest, and torso. Women should lift breasts to view the underside.
With your back to the full-length mirror, use the hand mirror to inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back, and any part of the back of your upper arms you could not view in step 4.
Still using both mirrors, scan your lower back, buttocks, and backs of both legs.
Sit down; prop each leg in turn on the other stool or chair. Use the hand mirror to examine the genitals. Check front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin, ankles, tops of feet, between toes and under toenails. Examine soles of feet and heels.
Skin Cancer Treatment
The following procedures are performed at the Clinic:
Surgical Skin Cancer Treatments
Surgical excision of all skin cancer types
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) – Surgical excision, Curettage and Diathermy
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) – Surgical excision and follow-up
Melanoma – Surgical excision and follow-up
Flap repair and full thickness skin grafting, if required
Non – Surgical Skin Cancer Treatments
Some types of skin cancers can be treated by non –surgical methods such as :
Aldara Cream for superficial BCC and “sun-spots”.
Other Surgery or Treatments
Surgical excision of benign skin lesions, cysts and lumps (for diagnostic and medical reasons)
Shave excision of benign skin lumps
Diathermy ( electrosurgical destruction ) – “age spots”
Cryotherapy ( cryosurgical destruction ) – “age spots”
Skin Cancer Additional Info
About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Since its inception in 1979, it is recommended using a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher as one important part of a complete sun protection regimen. Sunscreen alone is not enough, however. Read our full list of skin cancer prevention tips.
Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
Do not burn.
Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside.
Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
How Concerned Should We Be With The Rate Of Skin Cancer Incidence in Australia?
Here are some of the Statistics:
Australia has the highest skin cancer incidence rate in the world.
Australians are four times more likely to develop a skin cancer than any other form of cancer.
Approximately two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70.
While melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, it is the most life threatening form of skin cancer. In 2009 there were 11,545 new cases of melanoma.
In 2010, total deaths from melanoma were 1,452.
Melanoma is also one of the most common cancers affecting youth in Australia.
Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers (NMSC)
NMSC are the most common cancers diagnosed in Australia, with approximately 430,000 new cases estimated to have been diagnosed in 2008.
Of these 430,000 NMSC cases, an estimated 296,000 were Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) cases, and an estimated 138,000 were Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cases. It should be noted however, that NMSC is not reportable by law to cancer registries, like other cancers including melanoma, therefore the true incidence of BCC and SCC is not known.
In 2010 there were 445 reported deaths from NMSC.
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Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and Australasian Association of Cancer Registries (AACR) (2008). Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2008. AIHW cat. no. CAN 32. Canberra, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Staples M., et. al. (2006). Non-melanoma skin cancer in Australia: the 2002 national survey and trends since 1985. Medical Journal of Australia 2006; 184: 6-10.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australasian Association of Cancer Registries (2008). Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2008. AIHW cat. no. CAN 32.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Cancer Australia. Non-melanoma skin cancer: general practice consultations, hospitalisation and mortality. Cat no. CAN 39. September 2008.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2012). Cancer in Australia: an overview 2012. AIHW cat no. 70.