Australia is known for its beautiful beaches and wonderful weather.
Unfortunately, it’s also known as having one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.
Shockingly, it’s estimated that two in three Aussies will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70, while 2000 Australians die every year from skin cancer. (Source)
These are sobering numbers, and it can indeed be confronting, which is why it is so important to get to know your skin and body.
A trusted professional can regularly conduct skin checks, while the specialists at Brighton Plastic Surgery can provide safe and effective treatments for suspicious moles and cancerous skin cells.
This month, we are taking a look at some of the most common questions around skin cancer diagnosis and treatment, including what to look out for, what’s involved in surgery, and why you need to commit to yearly skin checks.
What are the different types of skin cancer?
There are three main types of skin cancer, each of which falls into one of two categories: melanoma and non-melanoma.
Melanoma accounts for just 1% of all skin cancers, and while it might be the rarest type of skin cancer, it’s also sadly the most aggressive.
Melanoma can spread quickly all over the body, and if left untreated, can be fatal. It is the third most common cancer in Australia.
The good news is that 90% of melanoma cases can be cured with early detection including skin and mole checks by a qualified professional.
There are two main types of skin cancers that sit within the non-melanoma category as well as a third, much rarer type.
Non-melanoma skin cancers are also known as keratinocyte cancers, and more common in men. It is hard to estimate the number of non-melanoma cases detected yearly as data is not routinely collected.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
One of the most common types of skin cancers, SCC develops in the squamous cells, which are found in the middle, more mature layers of the skin.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
The most frequently occurring skin cancers, BCC cells grow slowly and are mostly curable. When caught and treated early, they usually cause minimal damage to the skin. Basal cells make up the outermost layer of the skin.
Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC)
MCC is an extremely rare form of non-melanoma skin cancer that develops in the upper layer of the epidermis.
All types of cancers are more common on sun-exposed areas of the body, including the face, head, lips, neck, and hands.
However, skin cancer can be found anywhere on your body – even places you might not have even thought of – such as the bottom of the feet and your genitals.
What does skin cancer look like?
Skin cancer can present itself in many different ways, so it’s important to familiarise yourself with the following physical attributes.
We strongly suggest an annual skin cancer check with a qualified professional, and to get to know your own body so you can strengthen your chances of noticing any abnormalities or changes over time.
What is the ABCDE rule for skin cancer?
There are a few mole features you should look out for that can help you understand whether your mole may be cancerous. Follow the ABCDE rule.
A is for: Asymmetry
Look for an irregular shape, where one side does not match the other. Regular moles are usually symmetrical and even.
B is for: Border
Assess the border and take note if it’s uneven, jagged, or blurry. Normal moles are usually round or oval with smooth edges.
C is for: Colour
Is it a single colour, or does it contain a range of shades, including brown, black, or red? Most regular moles are a single, even, uniform colour.
D is for: Diameter
The size of your mole can indicate cancerous cells. Most benign moles are smaller than a quarter inch. Any larger than this, we suggest getting it checked.
E is for: Evolution
Is your mole or spot changing over time? Is it growing in size, changing colour, or otherwise evolving? It may be cancerous.
Skin cancer treatment
The importance of early detection cannot be stressed enough when it comes to the removal of skin cancer. Early detection is key to maximising your chances that cancerous cells will be successfully removed.
At Brighton Plastic Surgery, we are proud to have not one but in fact two skin cancer specialists with a wealth of education, training, and experience, to ensure you feel safe and comfortable when you visit.
A/Prof Ramin Shayan and Dr Lipi Shukla consult from our clinic and are also closely associated with the Victorian Melanoma Service unit at the Alfred Hospital.
We can help you understand all the treatments available, including the ones best suited to you and your unique circumstances.
Following surgery, we strongly encourage yearly skin checks, and can liaise with your skin care specialists to ensure ongoing care, long into the future.
Click here to learn more about skin cancer surgery, and discover some simple tips to keep your skin healthy.
If you’ve got further questions, please reach out to us and we will be happy to assist.