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Skin Cancer


There are 3 main types of skin cancer:

1. Basal cell carcinoma – the most common but least dangerous. Mostly found on the face, neck or upper torso. Usually appears as a smooth, shiny, pearly lesion. May show surface blood vessels and sometimes appears as an ulcer or sore which doesn’t heal, a scaling area or a patch of eczema. Represents 70% – 80% of all skin cancers in Australia. It is most common in the 40+ age group.

2. Squamous cell carcinoma – this is less common but more dangerous. It appears on hands, forearms, face, neck and tips of ears. It rarely spreads internally, but can cause extensive disfigurement if left too long. Usually a reddish lesion with crusting and scales. It is frequently mistaken for psoriasis, eczema or an infection. Representing 15% – 20% of all skin cancers in Australia, it is most commonly found in the 40+ age group. It grows over a period of a few months.

3. Melanoma – the least common, most dangerous skin cancer. It looks like a freckle, mole or spot which appears or changes colour, size or shape noticeably over a period of months. Look for irregular shape, uneven surface, colour change in or around the mole. Melanomas usually have a smudgy outline and variable colour, particularly brown or black. They can spread throughout the body quickly. Most deaths from skin cancer are due to melanoma. It can appear from early teens onwards, although is seen most often in 30 – 50 year olds. If treated early, melanomas are cured in over 95% of cases. t is important to examine the skin regularly for any unusual changes or growths. Early medical diagnosis is important as skin cancer is easily treatable in the early stages. Pharmacists should be positively encouraging their customers with any possible indication of skin cancer to seek medical advice early.