Guide To Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer

With a prediction of 500 million annual skin cancer diagnoses by the World Health Organization, there’s no denying that the prevalence of melanoma is rising every year. However, while this data is alarming, MoleMap Bairnsdale believes that the more you know about melanoma risks, the more you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones. We created this comprehensive resource to help you understand, assess, and prevent skin cancer.

 

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided here is for educational purposes only.

Table of Contents

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Skin cancer in Australia

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The different types of skin cancer

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How to assess skin cancer risks

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Preventing Skin cancer

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What are the steps after a skin cancer diagnosis?

Skin cancer in Australia

According to Cancer Australia, the government recorded 17,756 new cases of melanoma in 2022. 10,374 cases were men and 7382 were women. Additionally, it was reported that 62,881 Australians were living with melanoma of the skin in 2027, a number that is steadily increasing as new cases are diagnosed.

1281 deaths related to skin cancer were recorded in 2022, among which were 825 males and 456 females. This data may point out that women are more likely to seek regular screening and as a result, diagnose melanoma in its early stage. It also shows that men may have a higher prevalence of skin cancer.

Overall, skin cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer diagnosed in Australia and adults have a 5.8% chance to be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 85. However, Health direct recorded that 980,000 new cas­es of non-melanoma skin can­cers are also treat­ed every year, highlighting that early detection is a powerful form of prevention.

The different types of skin cancer

The skin is our largest organ and is made up of 3 layers: the epidermis (outer layer), the dermis (inner layer) and the hypodermis (deep fat layer). Skin cancer occurs when cells in and around those layers change. You can experience skin lesions which are the tech­ni­cal name for a part of the skin (includ­ing moles) that has an abnor­mal growth or appear­ance com­pared to the skin around it.

There are 4 main types of skin cancer:

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma makes up 80% of skin cancer. Impacting the basal cell – found in the epidermis – a basal cell carcinoma can develop as a result of sun exposure or in rare cases, radiation therapy. This type of skin cancer grows slowly and rarely spreads to other body parts. 

Squamous cell carcinoma

Around 20% of skin cancer diagnosed can be categorised under squamous cell carcinoma. Similarly to the basal cell, Squamous cells can be found within the epidermis. Squamous can change from sun exposure, but also when the skin has been burned, damaged by chemicals or exposed to X-ray. This type of skin cancer commonly affects the mouth, anus, vagina, and scarred area, and rarely spreads. 

Merkel cell cancer

Merker cell cancer is perhaps one of the rarest – yet aggressive – types of skin cancer there is. Developing in the hormone-producing cells located beneath the skin and in the hair follicles, it is commonly found on the face and neck and can advance very quickly.  

Melanoma

Found In between the epidermis and dermis layer, melanoma can develop when the melanocyte cells – which are involved in skin pigmentation – change or grow out of control anywhere on the body. Melanoma accounts for 1% of skin cancer, but it is the most aggressive and fast-developing.

How to assess skin cancer risks

Skin cancer, particularly melanoma, can become life-threatening very quickly. However, it is also a type of cancer that can be caught and treated early, thanks to multiple forms of assessment available to you. 

Mole Assessment

An assessment – both at home and in a clinic – starts with your moles. 

Moles commonly start to appear during childhood and young adulthood, however, it is not uncommon to have new moles develop as an adult until the age of 40. A mole considered normal will have the following characteristics:

  • Even­ly-coloured brown, tan or black
  • Flat or raised on the skin
  • Round or oval and sym­met­ri­cal in appear­ance
  • Less than 6 mil­lime­tres across

 

From your late 20s onward, new moles can develop as a result of sun exposure or pregnancies, among other causes. Some of them will appear and grow fairly quickly, which is why monitoring your skin for new and changing moles regularly is essential. If you notice that a new mole is appearing on your skin or that an old one is changing in colour, shape or size, it could suggest a potential melanoma. 

 

To assess a mole at home, you can run through the ABCDE principles:

  • Asymmetry: irregular in shape
  • Border: ragged or uneven
  • Colour: more than two shades
  • Diameter: greater than 6mm
  • Evolution: new mole or changes

Other criteria to consider

Along with monitoring new and changing moles, it is also important to look at other factors when assessing your skin cancer risks. This includes any family history of cancer, your skin type, your lifestyle, age, and general sun exposure. A large amount of moles – above 100 – also puts you at a higher risk of developing melanoma.

 

It’s a good idea to do a self-check at least every three months (at the begin­ning of each sea­son is an easy way to remem­ber). Use a small mir­ror to check all areas, freck­les and moles – and if pos­si­ble, ask some­one to check the areas you can’t see, such as your neck, scalp, back, under your arms, the backs of your legs, and the soles of your feet.

 

However, don’t just rely on your naked eye. If your risks of skin cancer are medium to high, make sure to get your skin checked by a professional. You can check your risks by completing our 2 minutes assessment.

Preventing Skin cancer

To keep your skin safe and stop skin cancer from developing, there are two main methods of prevention: sun safety and ongoing screening.

Sun safety

An important number of skin cancers are triggered by sun exposure. Sun exposure relates to the Ultra Violet rays, also known as UV. There are two main types of UVs: UVA (ageing) and UVB (burning). These radiations can reach your skin no matter the weather forecast. To protect your skin from any form of sun damage, The cancer council recommends the 5 S: Slip, slop, slap, seek, and slide.

  • Slip on some sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
  • Slop on a broad spectrum, water-resistant SPF30 (or higher) sunscreen. Put it on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards. Sunscreen should never be used to extend the time you spend in the sun.
  • Slap on a hat to protect your face, head, neck and ears.
  • Seek shade.
  • Slide on some sunglasses – make sure they meet Australian Standards.

Download the SunSmart App to know what the UVB levels are at your location.

Ongoing screening

Skin cancer can happen at any time and your risks can increase with age, sun exposure, and your genetic development. Getting your skin screened or checked implies that you get assessed by medical professionals, including a nurse, GP, dermatologist, or other skin specialists. An assessment will include a thorough head-to-toe analysis of skin and moles. In some cases, a professional will also use tech tools to record spots and track any potential changes.

At MoleMap Bairnsdale, your skin check is conducted by Lauren Brookes, a registered nurse and skin cancer specialist. Depending on your chosen screening service, your skin will be assessed using the MoleMap mapping system, which includes photographic records of your moles. Once your assessment is done, it will be sent out to a dermatologist for review. Learn more about our MoleMap Skin Check, Skin Check+, and Full Body MoleMap.

It is recommended to have your skin checked every year. If you’re considered at risk for melanoma, a professional might recommend screening every 6 months. As melanoma can develop rapidly, ongoing screening, no matter your risk level, is the best form of prevention against melanoma.

What are the steps after a skin cancer diagnosis?

If anything suspicious is found during a skin cancer screening, these will be stated in your report. You will be advised to contact your GP, which will run through a care protocol and provide referrals to specialists, including local surgeons or Dermatologists or Plastic Surgeon’s in Melbourne. Between Lauren at Molemap and your GP you will get the proper support in navigating what comes next. If you need help sourcing an experienced doctor/surgeon to see, please contact the clinic. 

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