About skin cancer

Most of us know someone who has had skin cancer. In Australia, about 4 out of 5 new cancers diagnosed are skin cancers. The vast majority of these skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun, while some are the result of genetic factors. Queensland still has one of the highest rates of skin cancer, including deadly melanoma, in the world.

In most cases, skin cancer occurs as a result of ultraviolet radiation causing abnormal growth of skin cells. Each time we are exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, the damage to our skin cells accumulates, in many cases, leading to a skin cancer.

Skin cancer can occur in anyone. Many people do not even realise that they have skin cancer. People at particularly high risk of skin cancer include people with:

  • fair skin, light coloured hair and blue eyes
  • a history of melanoma or other skin cancers in themselves or their family
  • a history of sunburns
  • skin that burns easily and doesn’t tan well
  • a history of using sunbeds or solariums
  • regular outdoor work or play
  • a large number of moles

The most common skin cancers seen in Australia are basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). These are commonly referred to as non-melanoma skin cancer. The next most common type of skin cancer, melanoma, is the most dangerous. Many skin cancers are curable if diagnosed and treated early.

At Bulimba Dermatology our dermatologists are experts in identifying and treating skin cancers of all types in their earliest stages. Treating skin cancers early provides a better outcome for patients, reduces your costs for treatment and minimises scarring. Your appointment with your dermatologist is an opportunity to learn more about what you can do to minimise your risk of skin cancer and how you can perform self-checks to help identify skin cancer and pre-cancerous changes on your skin.

View short video guide about checking your skin or the skin of a family member for skin cancers.

Download Skin Cancer information from SunSmart website.

If you notice any changes with any spots on your skin we recommend you get your skin checked as soon as possible by an expert.

Make an appointment request with one of the dermatologists at Bulimba Dermatology.


Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. It is very common in people with fair skin, fair hair and light coloured eyes. Most melanomas are related to sun exposure however melanoma can occur in people who don’t experience a lot of sun exposure. Melanoma can appear on any part of the skin including those areas that are not exposed to sunlight. If left untreated melanoma can spread to other parts of the body and can on many occasions, lead to death.

Early diagnosis of melanoma is the key to a good treatment outcome.  Dermatologists are well qualified to help identify melanoma in its earliest stages. Identifying melanoma is not easy. They are not always the typical ugly brown spot. As a guide to try and help with identification of melanoma there is a checklist that both doctors and patients can follow. It is referred to as the ABCDE method.

ABCDE Method

A - Asymmetry

This relates to the overall shape of the mole and the distribution of colour within the mole or spot. If one was to draw an imaginary line through the centre of the spot in any direction, when the two halves are different, this can sometimes indicate an abnormal spot.

B – Border

An irregular, ragged, “island-shaped” border is often indicative that something may not be quite right with the spot.

C – Colour

Multiple colours including blacks, blue, red and various shades of brown can all indicate that a spot is not normal. A normal healthy mole is generally a single uniform colour.

D – Diameter

Usually refers to a spot that is getting bigger in size. In some cases the larger size of a mole may indicate a higher chance of it turning into an abnormal growth. Even small spots can be melanomas.

E – Evolution

Evolution refers to change. Any spot that is changing needs to be checked. This may include changes in the features above. It may also include a change in symptoms such as a spot becoming sore, bleeding, itchy or irritated. Again, any change to a spot may indicate something sinister.

Not all melanomas are black or dark brown. Many melanomas can have no colour in them at all. We call these amelanotic melanomas. They can be a red patch on the skin that doesn’t go away, a red lump or a blister-like lesion that grows and does not go away.

Any spot that develops in an unusual manner, increasing in size or just not behaving in the same way as your other spots would normally behave, warrants examination by your dermatologist.

You can contact your dermatologist at Bulimba Dermatology for a full skin examination if you have any concerns regarding any skin lesions or spots. Don’t waste time. Get these spots checked as early as possible.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (or SCC) is another very common form of skin cancer. These spots can be dangerous. They usually present as a red scaly spot that becomes thickened, crusted or has a broken surface. They may or may not bleed. Often they can be tender, however not all squamous cell carcinomas are tender. They usually grow relatively slowly over a number of months and generally occur in areas where the skin is exposed to sunlight including on the face and the arms.

These are an important skin cancer to identify early. In the early stages, treatments other than surgery may be effective in curing these spots however more advanced lesions do require surgery.

They are more common again in fair skinned people and most commonly occur in people from middle age onwards, generally with a history of significant sun exposure. Any spot that fits the description mentioned above needs to be checked as soon as possible.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (or BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer occurring in Australia. Fortunately it is one of the less dangerous forms of skin cancer, nonetheless it is a cancer and needs to be treated with respect.

Again, early identification helps to reduce the impact of surgery on the patient and generally helps provide a better outcome for patients. In the early stages of diagnosis, a number of basal cell carcinomas can be treated with non-surgical treatments if caught early. More advanced lesions generally require surgical treatment.

These spots generally develop as either a red patch on the skin that may or may not be scaly. Many patients do not even realise they have these lesions. The spot will generally get larger in size over a period of time and then start to form a lump or a sore on the skin that does not heal. Any spot that does not heal over a number of months usually indicates something abnormal on the skin and should be checked.

Basal cell carcinomas more commonly appear on skin that has been exposed regularly to sunlight. They usually grow quite slowly, however basal cell carcinomas can do a lot of damage to the skin and underlying structures. It is important to get them identified and treated as early as possible. If you have any lesions that fit this description you may need to see your dermatologist.