It is a well-known fact that Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancers in the world.
Over the past decade, the Cancer Council Australia has heightened the urgency of skin cancer awareness as more Australians are diagnosed with skin cancer. According to the latest Cancer Council National Sun Protection Survey, it was revealed that Aussies do not only forget to protect themselves from the harsh effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, but skin cancers now account for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers.
As a skin cancer specialist, I am often asked how skin cancers form.
For many patients, skin cancers appear when the UV rays penetrate the epidermis layer of the skin and cause damage to the cells. As such, our sun-worshipping culture has increased not only the risks of severe sunburn but also aggressive melanomas.
More sobering is the fact that 17 per cent of the population — 2.7 million adults — suffer from sunburn each summer with over 20,000 being treated for skin cancers annually, of which 13,000 are for melanomas. By the age of 70 years, it is now stated that two in three Australians are diagnosed with skin cancer with more than 2000 patients dying each year.
Non-melanoma skin cancers are also on the rise with more than 750,000 people being treated annually, with men doubling the occurrence of diagnoses compared to women.
As a specialist plastic surgeon, I say this to every patient. No one is immune from developing skin cancer, and the risks increase as you get older.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Of the three main types of skin cancers, melanomas are the most dangerous. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are classified as non-melanoma skin cancers.
You should check your skin regularly so that you not only become familiar with any changes but are in a position to minimise the risks of being diagnosed with skin cancer.
Also, have year checkups with a dermatologist or your general practitioner. Your doctor may remove any suspicious looking lesion for further tests, and the biopsy will determine the particular stage of the cancerous growth.
Don’t be intimidated by a dismissive check if you believe that a particular growth has changed in colour or texture. Seek a second opinion for peace of mind. This includes having any moles, spots or freckles checked that have changed in colour, shape or size; any crusty sores that have failed to heal or unusual lumps that are red or pale in colour.
It’s also crucial that you tell your doctor when you first noticed the changes in your skin; if the lesion has grown or changed in colour and if the skin lesion is itchy or has begun to bleed
Most superficial skin cancers [Stage 1] such as basal cell carcinoma rarely spread, however, if the biopsy reveals that you have a large squamous cell carcinoma, further tests of the nearby lymph nodes will be required.
Along with early skin cancer detection, it is vital that you follow through with smart sun protection — protective clothing, broad-brimmed hats, sunglasses, shade and water-resistant SPF-30 (or higher) sunscreen.
Adults, teenagers and children of all ages should make this a habit as most skin cancers can be avoided.
Dr Lionel Chang [MB BS FRACS]
WHAT WE DO
Dr Lionel Chang [MB BS FRACS] brings over 30 years of skilled experience in the removal of skin cancers and remains one of the most in-demand specialists in this field.
Skin cancers are treated by several non-invasive and surgical methods, depending on the type of cancer, its size and location on your body and its stage of growth. During your consultation, Dr Chang will discuss the best procedure to remove the cancerous cells safely. He will also discuss your medical background, the level of scarring that will result from the procedure along with any risks associated with the surgery.
Non-melanoma skin cancers are mostly removed under a local anaesthetic; however, for the more advanced skin cancers, day surgery is required. Our skin cancer clinic also provides a wide range of ablative and non-ablative laser treatments and skin excisions to remove skin lesions, including moles and cysts.
Additionally, Dr Chang performs skin grafts as well as reconstructive surgery, which leaves the area with more aesthetically-pleasing results.
DOWNTIME: Short treatment or day surgery, depending on the type of skin cancer. The sutures are removed anywhere from seven to 10 days. FOLLOW UP SESSIONS: Depending on the procedure.
Please view our SKIN CANCER page.
Image purchased under licence (c) Shutterstock.