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What is skin cancer?

What is skin cancer?

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the one cancer every Australian needs to understand.

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, making up about 80 per cent of new cancer diagnoses.

A common misconception is that it’s only people with pale skin or moles who need to regularly visit a skin cancer clinic. The reality is that people of all skin tones are at risk of skin cancer, and that skin cancer doesn’t always appear as moles.

Here’s what your skin cancer clinic wants you to know.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the skin’s epidermis.

It’s caused when skin is damaged by UV light from the sun. The unrepaired DNA triggers mutations, which can form tumours and spread to other parts of the body.

What are the different types of skin cancer?

There are three main types of skin cancer a skin cancer clinic can detect, including:

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma usually appears as peal-coloured lumps or red, slightly scaley, flat areas. Sometimes these areas may become inflamed and often they bleed.

Basal cell carcinoma mainly appears on the face or neck, and any other area that has received repeated, episodic exposure to sun.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for about 20 per cent of skin cancers.

It presents as a thick or crusty pale or pink lump, or a growing lump and is also most commonly found on areas of high sun exposure, such as the face, ears and hands.


Melanoma starts in the melanocytes, which are pigment-producing cells in the epidermis of our skin that gives skin its colour.

Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer. It often shows few symptoms, except a change in a new or existing spot.

There are three main types of melanoma. Superficial spreading melanoma makes up about 75 per cent of all melanomas and usually presents as a growing mole. Lentigo maligna presents as a brown or black spot on the face, commonly affecting the elderly. Nodular melanoma is the most aggressive type of melanoma and appears as a rapidly growing lump.

What does skin cancer look like?

It isn’t always obvious, but the first sign of what skin cancer might look like is often a change in a new or existing mole.

They don’t need to be brown or black and, in fact, most non-melanoma skin cancers are pink or a fleshy colour.

Bleeding and pain are other clues to look for. Skin cancer can be flat or raised and can often be mistaken for a rash or a sore.

Sometimes skin cancer is only able to be identified by a skin cancer clinic – if you’re unsure, book an appointment to get it checked.

Does skin cancer itch?

Sometimes, skin cancer can itch or bleed, but that isn’t always the case. Any concerns should be addressed with a skin doctor at a skin cancer clinic immediately.

Bust those skin cancer myths

Due to widely believed myths, many people don’t get their skin checked until it’s too late.

Here are some persistent skin cancer myths that are worth busting:

Myth 1: ‘I don’t have any moles, so I won’t get skin cancer’

Having few or no moles is no guarantee against skin cancer, and actually most melanomas appear on regular skin, not pre-existing moles.

Myth 2: ‘I don’t get sunburn anymore, so I won’t get skin cancer’

Experiencing sunburn at a young age is one of the most significant factors in developing skin cancer later in life. Cumulative exposure to the sun is also a key risk factor – every bit of exposure to the sun counts.

Myth 3: ‘I tan well so I don’t have to worry about skin cancer’

Tanning is your body’s way of protecting your cells by creating a layer of pigment. If you have a tan, your body is experiencing DNA damage – and it’s this DNA damage that leads to skin cancer.

Myth 4: ‘I don’t really need regular skin checks’

Two out of three Australians will experience skin cancer in their life, and your greatest weapon against it is regular skin checks at a skin cancer clinic. It’s advised that you schedule an annual skin check at a skin cancer clinic.

Book your skin check at our skin cancer clinic today

A skin check at Bass Coast Skin Doctors can literally save your life.

A skin check is easy and non-invasive, and most importantly, your skin check at our skin cancer clinic will be performed by a doctor trained and experienced in detecting early signs of skin cancer.

If you’re looking for a skin cancer clinic near San Remo or Phillip Island that offers skin checks and molemapping, then Bass Coast Skin Doctors can help.

Book a consultation at our skin cancer clinic today. Call (03) 5618 7007 or book an appointment online.