SKIN CANCERS

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TYPES OF SKIN CANCER

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, seen more frequently in recent years, include Merkle Cell Carcinoma, Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma and Sarcomatoid Carcinoma


It is important to self-examine your skin on a regular basis for any changes or signs of skin cancer. It is best not to ignore a lesion simply because it doesn't hurt. Should you or someone close to you notice anything suspicious, consult an experienced accredited skin cancer doctor or dermatologist. 


Each kind of skin cancer has its own distinctive appearance and tends to develop in specific body areas. Factors that can increase the risk of skin cancer include excessive UV exposure, smoking, viral infections, medications, exposure to chemicals and radiation, autoimmune diseases and genetic conditions.

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.

Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma is associated with blood cancer. Mycosis fungoides is the most common type of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. This type tends to worsen slowly over time and may initially look like a skin rash, eczema or psoriasis. Due to recent advances in treatment, many people diagnosed with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma live normal lives. 

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

Lesion-Directed Dermoscopic Examination