Signs of Skin Cancer

C A N C E R   I N F O R M A T I O N

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer includes three main types :-

1. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) which is also known as Rodent Ulcer.

2. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

3. Malignant melanoma.

The most common of skin cancers is the Basil Cell Carcinoma, which includes up to 75% of all skin cancers. It is a small, slow growing painless ulcer present for years and is non-malignant in the sense that it doesn’t spread throughout the body and doesn’t kill.

If allowed to grow, and it grows slowly over a period of years, it can become very disfiguring following on surgery to the eyelids, the nose and the ear which are the more common sites.

It occurs mainly on exposed areas with approximately 80% located on the head and neck.

Fair skinned individuals of Celtic background who burn easily and tan rarely and are over 40 years of age are more likely to develop skin cancers. However, with the hot Australian sun, all types of skin have been known to develop them.

Although skin cancers develop more often in the older person, later studies indicate that continual exposure to the hot sun in early childhood is the important factor. Every effort should be made to protect children from continual exposure to the hot sun. Protective clothing and protective sun screen applications are the means of giving this protection.

Exposure to the sun is particularly dangerous during the middle of the day, say from 11.00 am to 3.00 pm.

It is wise to restrict the use of sun screen applications in children under the age of 12 months who should not be exposed to direct sunlight at all. Use protective clothing and shade.

Children under two years have delicate skin and need protection from the sun. Cover them up with a hat and a shirt then use a small amount of a sunscreen (15+ protection factor) on the remaining exposed areas.

After the age of 2 years children and adults should be protected with sun screens of 15+, clothing and shade particularly during the dangerous hours between 11.00 am to 3.00 pm.

The next most common cancer is the Squamous Cell carcinoma which includes up to 20% of all skin cancers. It is truly cancerous and can spread and kill. It occurs as frequently on the head and neck as on the hands and forearms.

Those on the lip and ear are more dangerous in that they spread more rapidly.

They occur more commonly in people aged over 50 years and can grow quickly from what appears to be a simple flat lesion of the skin or lips. They bleed early and can be tender. They are often crusted in contrast to BCC’s and may be quite moist. Squamous Cell carcinomas seem to merge gradually into normal skin.

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