It is important to self-examine your skin on a regular basis for any changes or signs of skin cancer. Especially look for change of any kind e.g. increased size, shape, texture, darkening and non-healing. It is best not to ignore a lesion simply because it doesn't hurt. Should you find something or someone close to you notice anything suspicious, consult an experienced and accredited skin cancer doctor. You can view and download free resources courtesy from the American Academy of Dermatology including the AAD's Body Mole Map to document your skin self-examination. Simple steps like these can help to identify skin cancer early.
Types of Skin Cancer
Like other cancers of the body , skin cancer will start as precancerous lesions. These precancerous lesions are changes, also called dysplasia, in the skin that are not cancer but could become cancer over time. Some dysplastic changes that commonly occur in the skin include actinic keratosis (solar keratosis), actinic cheilitis and cutaneous horns. These UV induced lesions can present as various patches of red or brown, scaly, rough skin, which can later develop into squamous cell cancer.
Atypical naevi (dysplastic moles) - Are abnormal looking benign moles, which could resemble melanomas. According to current literature people with 5 or more atypical naevi have a higher risk than the general population of developing melanoma.
There are 3 major types of skin cancers in New Zealand depending on the type of skin cell from which they arise, these include Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Malignant Melanoma. Other less common skin cancers include Merkle Cell Carcinoma and Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma. Each kind of skin cancer has its own distinctive appearance and tends to develop in specific body areas.
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, and the easiest to treat because it rarely spreads. BCC is generally characterized by its raised red or pearly appearance. It usually occurs on sun exposed areas of the face, neck and upper back. In most cases, the cancerous tissue is removed by either freezing with liquid nitrogen (superficial) or cutting out the invasive lesion. More>>
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer. It is often as easy to treat as basal cell cancer. However, squamous cell cancer is more likely to spread to other areas, like the skeleton, lymph and liver. SCC is usually characterized by a fast growing scaly or ulcerated lump that frequently appears on the face, scalp, neck, forearms, hands and shins. More>>
Malignant Melanoma is the most dangerous kind of skin cancer because it may spread quickly through lymph, blood or nerve tissues, to other organs. If caught early, the prognosis is very good. There are different types of melanoma that can involve the skin, eye and nailbed. Superficial spreading type melanoma of the skin usually appears to be asymmetric, uneven borders, patchy dark colors and evolving. More>>
Merkel Cell Carcinoma is a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer that often metastasizes to other parts of the body. It is more common in those that are immune suppressed due to systemic drugs, organ transplants, HIV infection and haematological malignancies. MCC usually presents as a rapidly enlarging, solitary, irregular red nodule. It is often similar in appearance to other more common skin cancers such as BCC but grows much more quickly.
Also see an Online Calculator that has been developed by the Melanoma Institute Australia (‘MIA’), based on a published risk prediction models (see References). It has been designed for use by clinicians, to guide discussions with patients about sun protection habits and skin surveillance for melanoma, for those who have not had a previous primary melanoma. As stated by MIA, the Calculator does not replace the doctors' assessment or advice. Melanoma Risk Assessment Tool