Skin cancer

Each year, over 17,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma, and over 400,000 are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia. 

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged, often by UV exposure to the sun. There are three main types of skin cancer; basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

Skin cancer is not sex-specific, but non-melanoma skin cancers are not notified to cancer registries. Each year, over 17,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma, and the number of cases continues to rise. For non-melanoma skin cancers, the number is as high as 400,000 people per year. Unfortunately, 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. 

What are the types of skin cancer?

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are known as non-melanoma skin cancer. These skin cancers are the most common cancers in Australia, but most are not life threatening.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, and develops from chronic UV exposure, with Australians having the highest rate in the world. This cancer type can be hard to treat due to its invasive nature and high resistance to chemotherapy, which poses a significant challenge to delivering effective treatment. 

What are the common symptoms of skin cancer?

  • Crusty, non-healing sores
  • Small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour
  • New spots, freckles or any moles changing in colour, thickness or shape

How is skin cancer diagnosed?

Make sure you check your skin regularly and book an appointment with your GP if you notice any changes. They can then examine you, paying attention to any spots that may look suspicious.

Your GP may perform a biopsy which can be sent to a lab for testing to see if any cancer cells are present.

What is the prognosis for skin cancer?

Most BCCs and SCCs are successfully treated, especially when found early. The chance of surviving for at least 5 years following a skin cancer diagnosis is 93%.

While survival rates are high for early-stage melanoma, they drop drastically to as low as 26.2% for advanced melanoma patients, who have a poor prognosis. 


Together, we can cure cancer.

Our skin cancer researchers

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