The Big picture…

The Big Picture

Australian Cancer Research Foundation

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  • What is skin cancer?
    Find out about the most common type of cancer in Australia
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    Tumour samples in the biobank help to understand why treatments work or don’t work
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Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in Australia. In 2016, it is estimated that the risk of an individual being diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer by their 85th birthday will be 1 in 18 (1 in 14 males and 1 in 23 females).


The skin.cancerresearch site provides news, information and leading opinions on skin cancer treatment, prevention, diagnosis and cure. Our topics include information on all types of skin cancer, skin cancer symptoms, risk, screening, treatment options as well as the latest related skin cancer research news.


Our growing collection of articles is not designed to provide medical or professional advice and is for support and information only. If you have any health problems or questions please consult your doctor.

Types of Skin Cancer

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer, the other main types being basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma is the most aggressive of the skin cancers.

Melanoma is a cancer of skin cells called melanocytes, which produce the pigment in moles, freckles and tanned skin. Melanomas can occur anywhere on the skin, but are most common on the chest and back in men, and the legs in women. The head and neck are other common sites.

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Unusual moles, exposure to sunlight, and health history can affect the risk of melanoma.

Having a fair complexion, such as fair skin that freckles and burns easily, does not tan, or tans poorly; blue or green or other light-colored eyes or having red or blond hair can create an increased risk to developing Melanoma.

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Melanoma is not usually painful, although the affected skin may feel different e.g. itchy.

Warning signs of possible melanoma include a mole that could show different features, including uneven, notched, or blurred edges...

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Melanoma is diagnosed by taking a biopsy of the affected area of skin (lesion) and examining it in the laboratory.

Other tests, including imaging, may be done find out the stage of the cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.

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The primary treatment for melanoma is surgery, which involves removing the entire melanoma as well as at least 1 to 2 cm of normal skin around it. If the draining lymph nodes are found to be involved, they are removed too.

If the melanoma is found at an early stage and has not yet spread, surgical excision may be the only treatment required...

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Melanoma stages are based mainly on the thickness of the tumour and whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or to other parts of the body.

The stages go from Stage 0 to Stage IV.

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Skin cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the tissues of the skin.

The skin has several layers, but the two main layers are the upper layer, called the epidermis, and the lower or inner layer, called the dermis. Skin cancer begins in the epidermis, which is made up of three kinds of cells...

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Risk factors for non-melanoma skin cancer can include factors such as being exposed to natural sunlight or artificial sunlight (such as from tanning beds) over long periods of time.

Particular attributes which increase a person’s risk for these skin cancers include fair skin that freckles and burns easily, does not tan, or tans poorly...

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Non-melanoma skin cancers often present as a change in the skin.

Non-melanoma skin cancers can appear as a lump or wart-like growth with a rough, scaly surface, or as a flat, reddish patch. A sore that does not heal is another indication of skin cancer.

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The procedures used to examine the skin, and test for non-melanoma skin cancer include Skin exam and Skin biopsy.

A skin exam and skin biopsy involves...

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Treatment options for Basal Cell Carcinoma skin cancer and Squamous Cell Carcinoma can include a simple surgical removal of the cancerous tissue or involve a procedure called Mohs Micrographic Surgery where individual layers of cancer tissue are removed and examined under a microscope one at a time until all cancer tissue has been removed.

A high powered laser beam that can cut through tissue can also be used to surgically remove the cancer...

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