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Skin Cancer

Cancer of the skin is at present the most common all form of cancers found in humans, and the most common of the skin cancers are Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Melanoma (Hill et al, 2004).Ultraviolet radiation is the predominant risk factor for the development of both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers (Gesensway, 2000).

Continued exposure to uv radiation can damage the DNA of skin cells to such an extent that repair is no longer possible, and permanent genetic mutations replace normal cell replication.

There are three different types of skin cancer, each named after the type of cell from which they originate: basal cells, squamous cells and melanocytes.

These skin cancers are Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma,  and Melanoma  respectively.

Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma can cause severe illness, and if not detected and treated early will permanently damage and disfigure the skin. When the skin cancer of these types is treated in the early stages there is a 95% chance of cure.

Out of these three types of skin cancer the most serious is Melanoma, which comes from the melanocyte cells.

Australia has the highest percentage of skin cancer victims in the world. It is now known that 1-in-2 Australians will develop skin cancer during their lifetime.

In America the rate of melanoma cancer is increasing by 7% per year, with 1-in-5 Americans developing skin cancer during their lifetime. Melanoma is the most common form of skin cancer for 25 to 29 year olds. Malignant Melanoma is the cause of over 75% of deaths from skin cancer.

Overexposure to the sun is the largest contributor to skin and lip cancer. This means that it is also largely avoidable if proper sun protection is used on a regular basis.

Artificial UV rays are just as dangerous as natural UV rays, and it is just as easy to get skin cancer from sun beds and tanning lamps as from the sun.



Melanoma is the name for the skin cancer that originates in melanocytes, which are the cells that produce melanin. Melanin is produced in the epidermis and other parts of the skin when exposed to UV rays causing the skin to suntan.

Melanoma skin cancer manifests itself as bumps and moles on the skin. This may occur anywhere on the body including the soles of the feet and even the eyes and mucous membranes. The nose and mouth can also be affected by excessive overexposure to UV rays , however these forms are rare.

Melanomas can develop quickly, and when left untreated will spread deeper into the skin and eventually to other parts of the body – a process known as metastasis, exemplified by the spread of cells from the primary neoplasm to distant organs where secondary growth occurs (Rigel, 2005).

The result is Malignant Melanoma, and this type of occurrence is responsible for 75% of skin cancer deaths.

Recognising Melanoma

A normal mole is consistent in colour and tone with clearly defined edges. When the cell is cancerous it will have different colours – reds, browns, blues – and blotchy in appearance, or will have various tones or shades in it. The edges will be jagged and not well defined. The mole or freckle will become larger and irregular in shape, and might itch and bleed. These are typical characteristics of Melanoma skin cancer.

New moles can appear at any time and often in childhood and pregnancy there will be changes. While not all will be Melanoma, they should be regularly monitored.


Melanoma is potentially a lethal skin cancer, with a higher fatality rate than basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer.

Melanoma skin cancer can start at any time of life, but most commonly occurs after puberty. It is the sixth most common form of cancer in men and the seventh most common in women.

If detected in its early stages this skin cancer can be treated. Surgical removal can cure this disease in most cases. If the disease is in the malignant stage and has spread to lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 30-40%. If it has spread further to inner organs (liver, bones, brain, etc.) the 5-year survival rate drops to 12%.

Family history plays a big role in this form of skin cancer. If the family has a history developing melanoma skin cancer or prominent or irregular moles the risks are higher.

Sunburn greatly increases the chance of melanoma skin cancer as the overexposure to UV rays extensively damages the cells. Severe sunburn in childhood will increase the chance of skin cancer by 50%.

The most common form of oral cancer is lip cancer. Lip cancer is related to changes caused by excessive exposure to UV rays. A sore on the bottom lip can be the start of a symptom of this skin cancer and is called squamous cell cancer.

Lip cancer is fairly easily treated with 97% of the cases cured. If your lip is abnormal, consider having it evaluated by a doctor immediately.


The skin: Your body’s largest organ.