Most skin cancers are the result of a combination of age and sun exposure.
Skin Cancer is the commonest form of any cancer seen in Australia, accounting for 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers. Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and approximately 2000 Australians die every year due to skin cancer.
There are literally dozens of different types of skin cancers and some are more dangerous than others. Early detection and treatment will usually result in complete cure, when performed correctly.
The three common types of skin cancers are:
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
This is the most frequent skin cancer and fortunately is the least aggressive. 90% of these occur on the face, neck or head, but they can occur on any sun exposed part of the body. They are slow growing, but if left untreated will “eat” into flesh and destroy tissue. An older term for BCC’s was “rodent ulcer” because it might appear as if a rat had been gnawing at the skin.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
SCC’s are the second most common skin cancer. These tend to grow more quickly and if not treated properly, can spread to other parts of the body and may be lethal. They mainly occur on sun exposed and sun damaged parts of the body.
Malignant Melanoma (MM)
This is the most dangerous skin cancer. Unfortunately it is the commonest type of cancer seen in people between the ages of 15 and 44 years. While the rate of melanoma in Australia has been rising, thankfully the death rate has been falling. This is mainly due to better awareness, early detection and improved treatments. Melanoma can occur in skin that has not been sun exposed, it can develop from a pre-existing mole, but it can also develop in areas of “normal skin.”
Surgical removal of most skin cancers will usually result in a cure, if diagnosed early. When these skin cancers occur on the face, then surgical removal can be disfiguring or leave obvious scars.
The Specialist Plastic Surgeons at CPS have extensive training and experience in treating skin cancers. Cosmetically sensitive areas such as the nose, ears, eyelids and lips require delicate and precise reconstructive techniques to minimise scarring and deformity. Skin cancers over the lower legs and shins require specialist treatment because of poor healing in these areas, and skin cancers on the hands must be managed carefully to maintain vital function.
If you notice any changes in your skin, you should seek advice from your GP. Your doctor may perform a biopsy or refer you to one of our Specialists for further treatments.