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Australia has one of the highest incidents of skin cancer in the world due to our sunny climate and love of the beach. Approximately two out of every three Australians will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70 years. Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia today.

Everyone, but the risk is particularly high in the people who have:

  • Fair skin, especially if it burns easily
  • Red or fair hair
  • Experienced short intense periods of exposure to the sun with a severe sunburn e.g. on holidays
  • Tanned in a solarium
  • Worked outdoors without appropriate protection
  • A weakened immune system e.g. someone having chemotherapy or organ transplant.
  • Numerous moles on their body
  • A family history of skin cancer.

Even people with olive or dark skin can develop skin cancer but their risk is lower.

Skin cancer is usually caused by overexposure to the UV radiation in sunlight but also from places like solariums. Australia has high UV radiation levels most of the year and often people are exposed without even noticing it.

Basel Cell Carcinoma BCC

This form of cancer starts in the base of the skin.

It often affects sun exposed areas like the face, neck, shoulders, arms and legs.

It often starts as a nodule that gets irritated, itchy and bleeds and then goes away only to return after a few months.

It grows slowly and rarely spreads.

Getting it treated early is easier and can be done with creams or small excisions.

If you have a skin lesion that doesn’t seem to go away – have it checked.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma – SCC

This form of cancer starts in a higher level of the skin and is less common than BCC. It occurs in the same areas of the BCC, i.e. face, neck, shoulders, arms and legs but can occur elsewhere.

They are often tender and irritated and can grow quickly and can spread.

If you have a skin lesion that is new and tender – have it checked.


This is the deadliest form of skin cancer, Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world.

It is less common than BCC & SCC but more serious.

It often appears as a new or existing spot anywhere on the body that changes in size, shape and colour over weeks/months.

It is usually irregular in shape and can be flat or raised and has usually different shades of colour – blue/black/white/grey/red.

Early detection = Early treatment

If you have a spot that is new or changes – have it checked

This is a normal skin growth. It can be brown/black or pale skin coloured and is usually round with regular edges.

Often members of the family have similar moles.

Usually your moles develop from childhood to your 20’s and then stay stable all your life.

Dysplastic Naevi
These are moles with an irregular shape.

People with lots of dysplastic naevi are at high risk of melanoma and need regular skin checks.

If you have moles – have them checked

  • SLIP on clothing
  • SLOP on SPF 50+ sunscreen. Put it on 20 mins before going out in the sun and reapply every 2 hours.
  • SLAP on a broad brimmed hat
  • SEEK shade especially between 10 am and 2 pm.
  • SLIDE on sunglasses that reach Australian Standard AS1067.