What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia and New Zealand.
Skin cancer occurs when skin cells change into abnormal cells and grow at an uncontrolled rate.
There are two main types of skin cancer: melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.
The number of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer cases is increasing worldwide.
What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer coming from the cells that produce pigment - called melanocytes.
Melanoma is linked to sun exposure, but it can also occur in areas of the body that aren’t often exposed to sun. Rarely, it occurs on the skin lining the nose, mouth and genitals.
When melanoma cancer cells grow, a lesion on the skin appears and it is often, though not always, brown or black in colour.
Melanoma can spread to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes (glands), bone, lung, liver and brain. When cancer spreads it is known as ‘metastatic’ or secondary cancer.
What are non-melanoma skin cancers?
Non-melanoma skin cancers develop from cells in the upper layers of the skin. The two most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC).
Non-melanoma skin cancer can occur anywhere on the skin, though it’s most commonly found on parts of the body that have experienced long-term sun exposure - like the head, face, neck, arms, and legs and back of the hands.
What are basal cell carcinomas?
Basal cell carcinomas are usually localised but can become aggressive and spread to nearby areas.
Basal cell carcinomas rarely spread to lymph nodes or other sites in the body.
What are squamous cell carcinomas?
Squamous cell carcinomas are usually localised but can become aggressive and spread to nearby areas.
Some high-risk squamous cell carcinomas have the potential to spread to lymph nodes or distant sites in the body.