How significant is the problem
In 2018 skin cancer ranked number 20 on the list of causes of death in Australia. Heart disease and dementia ranked numbers 1 and 2 respectively.
What are the risk factors for skin cancer?
- Fair skin is high on the list, but olive and brown complexions are not immune. Bob Marley (reggae icon) passed away at 36 from melanoma.
- Number of sunburns and total sun exposure – are major risk factors
- Family predisposition
- Lots of moles
- Medical conditions, including ones that impair immune responses
There is good news however!
Check the ABCDE guidelines for self-detection essentials.
Types of Skin Cancer
Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
- Basal cell carcinoma or BCC is the most common type of skin cancer. They usually grow slowly over months to years. Are only rarely lethal and usually easy to treat. Some BCCs on the face, especially if ignored or not treated optimally, can be more problematic. There are 4 subtypes:
- Nodular BCC – roundish, red or pearly bump. Can ulcerate and form a scab.
- Superficial BCC – pink or red flattish lesion.
- Pigmented BCC – like a nodular BCC with areas of pigmentation. May be difficult to distinguish from a melanoma.
- Morphoeic BCC – pale, scar like, sometimes inconspicuous and more extensive than appearances suggest.
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the next most common type of skin cancer and is more lethal than BCC. Often appear as a fairly fast growing bump, may be painful and may ulcerate and scab.
- Bowen’s Disease is an early form of SCC (in situ SCC) that is confined to the top layer of the skin (epidermis). It is usually a red, scaly mark that grow slowly.
Is less common than NMSC but is more dangerous. There are a number of melanoma subtypes:
- Superficial spreading melanoma (SSM) – about 70% of melanomas, starts as a flat pigmented mark that changes size, shape and colour over a period of months.
- Nodular melanoma – raised bump, sometimes lacks pigmentation and can be mistaken for a benign process such as a “pimple”. Often diagnosed at a later stage than SSM.
- Lentigo maligna melanoma – slow growing flat pigmented patch that may become quite large. Often appear on the face of elderly persons.
- Acral melanoma – occur on palms and soles of feet and are easily mistaken for a bruise or other benign process. Includes melanomas under toe or fingernails (subungual melanoma).
In part II we look at treatment of skin cancer
or find more information at the Sky Blue category on Skin Cancer