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Skin Cancer- how to recognise the signs of a skin cancer

Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70 years old. More than 75% of people would not recognise warning signs of a skin cancer and recent reports indicate that people do not carry out the monthly checks recommended by dermatologists and doctors.

Many people said they do not feel confident they could recognise signs of a non-melanoma skin cancer. This type of cancer is characterised by the appearance of a lump or discoloured patch on the skin that does not heal, mostly appearing on the face, eats, hands, and shoulders.

From 1982-2010 melanoma diagnoses increased by 60%. In 2012, 2036 people died from skin cancer in Australia with majority due to melanoma.

We have listed the signs and symptoms of different types of skin cancer below..

Basal Cell Cancers

Skin cancer can come in the form of a basal cell cancer (BCC), also referred to as a rodent ulcer.

Signs and symptoms of BCC’s, include a growth that:

  • Looks smooth and pearly
  • Appears as a firm, red lump
  • Sometimes bleeds
  • Develops a crust or scab
  • Is itchy
  • Never completely heals
  • Develops into a painless ulcer

Around 75% of all skin cancers are BCC’s, which are typically slow growing and almost never spread to other parts of the body. If treated at an early stage, this form of skin cancer is usually completely cured.

Squamous Cell Cancer

Another form of non-melanoma, skin cancer, SCC’s are a cancer of the keratinocyte cells, in the outer layer of the skin. They are mainly found on the face, neck, arms, back of hands and lower legs.

Signs to look for are:

  • Look scaly
  • Have a hard, crusty cap
  • Are raised in the area of the cancer
  • Feel tender to touch
  • Bleed irregularly


A more serious cancer to look for is the Melanoma- the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Melanoma can appear anywhere on the body, but they most commonly appear on the back, legs, arms and face.

Though less common, they often spread to other organs in the body, making them more deadly. The most common sign is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing moles colour or size.

This is a great reminder that even through the winter months, we should all be wearing sunscreen when outdoors and wearing a hat whenever possible. You can have regular skin checks with your doctor, dermatologist or any skin cancer clinics around Australia.


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