Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin). These malignant tumours can appear as a flakey lesion, rash, non-healing spot or pimple. Regular skin checks and ongoing mole surveillance will help with the early detection and management of skin cancers.
Routine skin checks and ongoing mole surveillance are best performed by a dermatologist (skin, hair and nail specialist) to identify any abnormalities or cancerous lesions.
Skin cancer is the rapid growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis caused by un-repaired DNA damage. There are three main types of skin cancer:
These tumours often develop on skin that is exposed to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays or UV tanning beds. Detected early in the precancerous stage, a dermatologist can remove it entirely with minimal scarring. Left unchecked, a cancerous growth can penetrate below the skin requiring deeper surgical intervention.
Non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are less likely to be life-threatening. However, they can be locally destructive and disfiguring if left untreated.
BCCs and SCCs occur when UV radiation or other damaging agents trigger abnormal changes in the basal cells and squamous cells respectively. Located in the epidermis, basal cells are responsible for forming new cells to replace the squamous cells that wear off the skin’s surface. As basal cells move up in the epidermis, they get flatter and eventually become squamous cells.
BCCs typically present as shiny bumps, open sores, reddish patches, pinkish growths or scar-like areas. Lesions can vary in size and may sometimes ooze, itch or bleed.
SCCs can appear as scaly red patches with irregular borders, open sores, wart-like growths that may crust and bleed, or raised growths with a central depression. SCCs are more likely to grow into deeper layers of skin and spread to other parts of the body.
The majority of BCCs and SCCs can be fully eliminated, if diagnosed early and treated when the cancer is small. Patients affected by BCCs or SCCs possess an increased risk of other skin cancers, especially melanoma. Regular self-skin examinations and annual skin checks by a dermatologist is highly recommended.
Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, develops in cells known as melanocytes. These skin cells are responsible for producing melanin pigment which gives skin its colour. Detecting melanoma early is vital as it can spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening if not treated at an early stage.
Melanomas often resemble moles and sometimes may arise from them. They can be found on any area of the body, even in areas that are not typically exposed to the sun.
Once a mole has developed, it will usually stay the same size, shape, and colour for many years. Most people have moles, and almost all moles are harmless. It is important to recognise changes in a mole (such as in its size, shape, colour, or texture) that can suggest a melanoma may be developing.
The characteristics of melanoma are defined by the ABCDE rule, which stands for:
ODE Dermatology offers state-of-the-art skin mapping and mole tracking services. These thorough full-body skin examinations are performed by Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan, a leading Australian expert in the detection and management of skin cancer.
Cutting-edge mole photography and dermoscopic monitoring technologies document the entire skin and individual moles over time to identify pathological changes as early as possible. Routine skin checks are especially crucial for individuals who have: