Information About Skin Cancer

What are the different types of skin cancer?

Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma are the three types of skin cancers. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types and less dangerous than melanoma.  They usually occur on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the face, neck and hands. Melanoma is the most serious because, if it is not treated early, it is more likely to spread throughout the body.

Who is at risk for developing melanoma?

People at the highest risk for developing melanoma are those that have fair skin, freckles, light eyes, family history of skin cancer (especially melanoma), sunburns as a child or teenager, sun sensitivity and most importantly Solarium uses.  Those who have many moles, large moles, atypical or unusual looking moles should monitor their moles and see a dermatologist regularly. To help you futher the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne has completed a risk indicator to help medical practitioners and the general public to calculate their melanoma risk Victorian Melanoma Services website.

What are the symptoms of melanoma?

Symptoms of melanoma may vary, so it’s important to recognize changes in the skin that are unusual for you.  Some symptoms to notice are moles that change in size, shape or color, new moles, moles that itch, bleed, or are tender, and sores that don’t heal.  If you notice any of these signs, seek prompt consultation with a dermatologist.

How can I check for skin cancer and how often should I check?

You should perform a self-examination monthly. This will help you be aware of your skin and keep track of any changes by using a body map to chart your existing moles, birthmarks and other skin growths (See prevention). If you notice any changes, consult your dermatologist.

Remember the ABCDE warning signs:

• Asymmetry of lesion

• Border (uneven borders)

• Color variation (many shades of color within a lesion)

• Diameter greater than 6 millimeters (pencil eraser)

• Evolving/Elevation (lesion is growing in height)

How can I reduce my risk of skin cancer?

You can reduce your risk of developing skin cancer by limiting your time in the sun during 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.  When you are in the sun, make sure you use a sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher with protection against UV-A and UV-B rays.  Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before going in the sun and reapply throughout the day.  Remember to cover up and wear protective clothing, including a hat, sunglasses and seek shade wherever possible.

Are tanning beds a safe alternative to being in the sun?

Tanning beds are not safe. Avoid going to tanning salons or using any other artificial light sources.

If I have skin cancer, what are my treatment options?

Most skin cancers are treatable if caught early. Many cancerous skin lesions can be removed from the skin easily. They are sometimes removed completely at the time of the biopsy and no further treatment is necessary. In some cases, doctors use radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of methods to treat the disease.

I’ve heard moles change during pregnancy.  Is this true?

Moles often change during pregnancy due to hormonal effects. They may darken or become larger. However, if a mole changes in an irregular or uneven manner, consult a dermatologist, also any new raised moles (nodular melanoma) that resembles a dark pimple.

Is there a melanoma vaccine available?

The melanoma vaccine is designed for patients with advanced stage melanoma, unlike typical vaccines given to prevent diseases. Following surgery, patients are given the vaccine to boost their immune system’s defense against any residual cancer cells in the body. Your doctor will be able to give you any further updates.






Supporting Melanoma and Skin Cancer