What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged, for example, by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Some UV radiation from the sun is important for health but too much UV can cause sunburn, skin and eye damage and skin cancer. Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged, and between 95 and 99% of skin cancers in Australia are caused by exposure to the sun.Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world with 2 in every 3 Australians being diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetimes. In Victoria alone, 357 people die from skin cancer every year. However, if detected early, 95% of skin cancers can be successfully treated.
Prevention and regular check ups of your skin should detect any suspicious spots as soon as they develop.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three types of skin cancer. These are Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) or Melanomas.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Most common form of skin cancer
Least dangerous form of skin cancer
May appear as a lump or scaly area
Colour: red, pale or pearly/pale
Usually grows slowly
Usually appears on the head, neck or upper torso
Can become ulcerated as it grows

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Grows over a period of weeks or months
May spread if not treated
Occurs mostly to areas that are exposed to the sun
May appear as thickened, red, scaly spots


Most dangerous form of skin cancer
Develops over weeks to months
Usually curable if caught early
If it spreads it can be difficult to cure
Can appear as a new spot or existing spot (freckle or mole that changes colour, size or shape)
Irregular outline and texture and often more than one colour
Number one prevention is by not getting sunburnt