Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the skin. The three main types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma – begin in particular cells of the epidermis, which is the top, outer layer of the skin.
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia. About two in three Australians will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70.
Almost 770,000 new cases of BCC and SCC are treated each year. BCC can develop in young people, but it is more common in people over 40. SCC occurs mostly in people over 50.
More than 12,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma each year. It is among the five most commonly diagnosed cancers in all age groups.
Anyone can develop skin cancer, but it’s more common the older you are. The risk is also higher in people who have:
The main cause of all types of skin cancer is overexposure to UV radiation. When unprotected skin is exposed to UV radiation, the structure and behaviour of the cells can change.
UV radiation is produced by the sun, but it can also come from artificial sources, such as the lights used in solariums (sun beds). While commercial sun beds are now banned in Australia, people who used a solarium before age 35 have an almost 60% greater risk of melanoma.
Most parts of Australia have high levels of UV radiation all year round. UV radiation cannot be seen or felt and it is not related to temperature, but it can cause:
Please note the information on this page has been sourced from the Cancer Council.