Skin Cancers – What you need to know

Confused as to what skin cancers are? Which are the most dangerous? How are they treated? And most importantly how to protect your skin from developing them?

It can be confusing to a lot of people what it actually means when you get diagnosed with a skin cancer, the different types of skin cancer and also how to get rid of them! We debunk the ins and outs of skin cancers to give you a better explanation of what it entails, so you can make an informed decision about your treatment.

What is skin cancer?
Skin cancers are tumours in which there is an uncontrolled proliferation of any of the skin cells, whereas the normal process of regeneration of skin involves replication of the cells in a controlled fashion. There are three main types of skin cancer.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is a common, locally invasive skin cancer. It is the most common form of skin cancer.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is also a common form of skin cancer, referring to cancer cells that have grown beyond the epidermis.
Melanoma is a potentially serious type of skin cancer, in which there is uncontrolled growth of melanocytes (pigment cells). Melanoma is sometimes called malignant melanoma.
The cancerous growth of melanocytes results in melanoma. Melanoma is described as:
• In situ, if the tumour is confined to the epidermis (the top layer of the skin)
• Invasive, if the tumour has spread into the dermis (the deeper layer of the skin)
• Metastatic, if the tumour has spread to other body areas.

These are the common types of skin cancer we see here in clinic and if caught early, they are very treatable and this is easily done in clinic. Once the dermatologist does a thorough skin check and if any suspicious lesions are detected, a biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis. The dermatologist may also excise the entire lesion.

Risk factors for skin cancers

• Increasing age
• Previous melanoma
• Previous basal or squamous cell carcinoma
• Large numbers of melanocytic naevi (moles)
• Multiple (>5) atypical naevi (large or histologically dysplastic moles)
• A strong family history of melanoma with 2 or more first-degree relatives affected
• Pale skin that burns easily
• Actinic keratoses (pre-cancerous sunspots)
• Outdoor occupation or recreation

How to prevent skin cancer?
– Wear SPF 50+ sunscreen EVERYDAY, no matter if you’re indoors or outdoors, sunny or cloudy. Skin cancer does not discriminate! You need to protect yourself from both UVA and UVB which are both known to damage the skin.
– Get skin checks annually, or every 2 years if you have no skin cancer in the family
– Try to avoid the outdoors between 10 am – 3 pm, this is known to be the most risky time to be outdoors due to the UV index. You can view the UV index by downloading the Sun Smart app which gives you regular updates of UV index and other useful tools to better protect yourself.
– Use clothing as much as you can ie. T-shirt, hats, sunglasses, umbrellas etc… SPF is good but covering your body with clothing is very important also!

If I get a skin cancer what’s involved?
Firstly it depends on what kind of skin cancer you are diagnosed with and the thickness and position of the lesion.
If it is a superficial cancer we can look at using cryotherapy (freezing) or using a prescription cream to help slowly shed the skin cancer. Treatment can sometimes take a few months to complete.
If the skin cancer is a defined lump, we usually remove the lesion by surgery. This may sound drastic but it is actually quite simple and quick. We perform skin surgery routinely in our clinic under local anaesthetic and once the skin is numbed up, the procedure takes about 15mins depending how big the lesion is. Sometimes people go back to work straight after, however it is suggested to take it easy for the next couple of days to avoid any complications with the wound.
Overall skin cancers are quite easy to treat with early detection and the right diagnosis through regular skin checks by a dermatologist. It’s all about PREVENTION and PROTECTION!
Feel free to contact us to schedule your skin check appointment with our expert dermatologists.