What is Skin Cancer?
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Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Australia and is typically caused by long term exposure of skin cells to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
Exposure to UV radiation damages your skin
Every time your skin is exposed to UV radiation, the structure and function of your skin cells are changed.
Ongoing exposure through regular sunbaking and sunburning can damage the genetic material in skin which worsens with each exposure. This kind of damage can cause the abnormal growth of cells, which may become cancerous.
Skin cancer is most commonly caused by severe sunburns, particularly during childhood, but can also be caused by long-term exposure to the sun. All types of skin are susceptible to damage by UV radiation and are at risk of skin cancer.
Skin cancer can be a deadly disease
More than 1,000 Australians die each year from skin cancer, with Melanoma responsible for 70 per cent of deaths. Non-Melanoma skin cancers, when left undetected or that have grown too large or spread throughout the body, are responsible for 30 per cent of deaths. Non-Melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer suffered by Australians.
Left undetected, cancer can spread to other parts of the body. The prognosis for a person suffering from skin cancer will depend on the type of skin cancer, the stage at which it was detected and their general health
Early detection and treatment
Early detection of skin cancer is the best chance for speedy recovery. People should review the risk factors for skin cancer to identify their individual risk. People at high risk of skin cancer should become familiar with the look of their skin and conduct regular checks for any changes.
If you think you have detected a change, you should consult your doctor who may remove a small sample of tissue for testing or refer you to a specialist.
If skin cancer is detected, the skin cancer will most likely be surgically removed and for more advanced cancer some of the surrounding tissue may also be removed. Ointments or radiation therapy may also be required.