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Skin Safety – Skin Cancer
May 2009
Skin Safety – Skin Cancer
About skin cancer
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged, for
example, by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation
from the sun. Between 95 and 99% of skin cancers in
Australia are caused by exposure to the sun
Skin Safety – Skin Cancer
Types of skin cancer
There are three main types of skin cancer:
melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer
basal cell carcinoma*
squamous cell carcinoma*
*Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma
are known as non-melanoma skin cancer.
Skin Safety – Skin Cancer
Early detection
The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better your
chance of avoiding surgery or, in the case of a serious melanoma
or other skin cancer, potential disfigurement or even death.
It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and for
advice on early detection.
Check your skin regularly to pick up any changes that might
suggest a skin cancer. Look for:
any crusty, non-healing sores
small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour
new spots, freckles or any moles changing in colour, thickness or shape
over a period of weeks to months (especially those dark brown to
black, red or blue-black in colour).
If you notice any changes consult your doctor immediately. Your doctor
may perform a biopsy (remove a small sample of tissue for
examination under a microscope) or refer you to a specialist if
he/she suspects a skin cancer.
Skin Safety – Skin Cancer
Skin Safety – Skin Cancer
Skin cancer facts & figures
In Australia, every year:
• skin cancers account for 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers.
two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70.
GPs in Australia have over 1 million patient consultations per year for skin cancer.
around 434,000 people are treated for non-melanoma skin cancers, of which more
than 400 die.
more than 10,000 people are treated for melanoma, of which more than 1200 die.
• melanoma is the most common cancer in people aged 15-44 years.
• melanoma is the third most common cancer in both women and men.
Australia has one of the highest incidences of skin cancer in the world, at nearly four
times the rates in Canada, the US and the UK.
the rate of melanoma incidence in women has risen by an average of 0.7% a year
between 1993 and 2003 – a total increase of 6.8% over this decade. For men, the
rate has risen by 1.7% a year, a total of 18.7% over the same period.
the five-year relative survival rate for melanoma is 90% for Australian men and 95%
for Australian women.
skin cancer is the most expensive cancer. In 2001, it was estimated the treatment of
non-melanoma skin cancer cost $264 million and melanoma $30 million.
GP consultations to treat non-melanoma skin cancer increased by 14% between
1998-2000 and 2005-2007 – from around 836,500 to 950,000 visits each year.
Skin Safety – Skin Cancer
What puts you at risk?
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Anyone can be at risk of developing
skin cancer, though the risk increases as you get older.
The majority of skin cancers in Australia are caused by exposure to UV radiation in sunlight.
Sunburn has been associated with melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.
In Australia almost 14% of adults, 24% of teenagers and 8% of children are sunburnt on summer
weekends. Many people get sunburnt when they are taking part in water sports and activities at the
beach or a pool, as well gardening at home or having a barbeque.
People are also sunburnt on cooler or overcast days when they mistakenly believe UV radiation is not
as strong. This is untrue – you can still be sunburnt when the temperature is cool.
Sun exposure that doesn't result in burning can still cause damage to skin cells and increase your risk
of developing skin cancer. Evidence suggests that regular exposure to UV radiation year after year can
also lead to skin cancer.
Skin Safety – Skin Cancer
Skin Safety – Skin Cancer
Preventing skin cancer
Protect your skin
For best protection, we recommend a combination of sun protection
1. Slip on some sun-protective clothing – that covers as much skin as
2. Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30+ sunscreen. Put it
on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours
afterwards. Sunscreen should never be used to extend the time
you spend in the sun.
3. Slap on a hat – that protects your face, head, neck and ears
4. Seek shade
5. Slide on some sunglasses – make sure they meet Australian
Skin Safety – Skin Cancer
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