Skin cancers originate from various cell types that make up our skin. They exhibit varying degrees of malignancy and spread (metastases). The commonest skin cancers are classified as non-melanoma skin cancers and melanomas. The most common non-melanoma skin cancers are Basal Cell Carcinoma or BCC and Squamous Cell Carcinoma or SCC. Of these, BCC’s occur more commonly than SCC’s.
BCC’s also tend not to spread (they tend to enlarge locally, in depth and spread) while SCC’s tend to metastasise, especially those on the lip, ear and in individuals whose immune status is compromised.
Melanoma is less common than non melanoma skin cancers but is the more aggressive of the two. Survival rates of melanoma are poor, although with early diagnosis, treatment is easier and survival rates possibly better.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Australia and rates are increasing. Melanoma is the most common cancer in the 15 – 44 year age group.
BCC’s are present on sun exposed areas such as the face, upper limbs and trunk. BCC’s, SCC’s and melanomas tend to occur on sun exposed areas while the popularity of sun beds is being recognised as a cause of skin cancers. Both UV-A and UV-B have been identified as causing damage to our DNA, thus inducing the development of skin cancers.