National Skin Action Week in November, spearheaded by the Australasian College of Dermatologist and Cancer Council Australia, is an important reminder before summer that we need to slip, slop and slap.

By the time Australians get to 70 years of age, two-thirds have had a skin cancer. Annually 2,000 patients die and over a billion dollars is spent treating skin cancers each year. Just melanoma itself is the fourth higher incidence of new cancers in Australia, behind breast, prostate and colon.

With most lesions being visible before spread, and improvements in detection and treatment over the years, more skin cancers can be picked up before they turn nasty.

Here are some common types:


Melanoma – most deadly, usually pigmented. Appears as a new spot or an existing spot that changes in colour, size or shape. Can appear on skin not normally exposed to the sun.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) – common, least dangerous form of skin cancer. Looks red, pale or pearly in colour, and appears as a lump or dry, scaly area. May ulcerate or fail to completely heal. Grows slowly, usually on areas that are often exposed to the sun.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – A thickened, red scaly spot. Can bleed easily, crust or ulcerate. Grows over some months, usually on areas often exposed to the sun. More likely to occur in people over 50 years of age.

Things to look forward when inspecting your own skin – asymmetry, irregular borders, blotchy or multiple colours, growing or changing spots. The more moles you have, or skin that can burn, the more diligent you need to be.

Remember to cover up during summer, use SPF 30+ sunscreen (20 minutes before sun exposure), wear a hat and seek shade, plus wear sunnies to protect your eyes (UV radiation can cause cataracts, growths on the cornea and macular degeneration).