Skin cancer is a common problem in Australia and the reality is two-out-of-three Australians will be affected by skin cancer at some stage during their lifetime.

The cause of skin cancer is multi-factorial which means that there isn’t just one cause but a range of factors that may vary in their contribution to the final result of skin cancer. However, by far the most common cause is sun exposure which damages skin cells and causes them to transform into a variety of skin cancers.

Skin cancer is a common problem in Australia and the reality is two-out-of-three Australians will be affected by skin cancer at some stage during their lifetime.

The cause of skin cancer is multi-factorial which means that there isn’t just one cause but a range of factors that may vary in their contribution to the final result of skin cancer. However, by far the most common cause is sun exposure which damages skin cells and causes them to transform into a variety of skin cancers.

 

Radiation from the sun includes Infra-Red Light, a visible light, and Ultraviolet Light. Ultraviolet Light can be further divided into UVA, UVB and UVC. All of the UVC is filtered by the ozone layer so that none reaches the surface of the earth and 90% of UVB is filtered out by ozone. It is the Ultraviolet A which is the most damaging to skin.

The body’s response to excess sun exposure is to increase melanin production to protect it which can be seen when your skin freckles and tans. A suntan is the skin’s response to injury and we can conclude that there is no such thing as a “safe” suntan.

Avoiding the sun is one of the key ways to prevent skin cancer but is made more difficult in Australia with our penchant for outdoor activities and the beach. Early detection of changes to your skin such as becoming red and flaking, moles changing shape, small skin abrasions on your face, arms or legs that “heal then peel” are often signs you could have the beginnings of skin cancer.

Radiation from the sun includes Infra-Red Light, a visible light, and Ultraviolet Light. Ultraviolet Light can be further divided into UVA, UVB and UVC. All of the UVC is filtered by the ozone layer so that none reaches the surface of the earth and 90% of UVB is filtered out by ozone. It is the Ultraviolet A which is the most damaging to skin.

The body’s response to excess sun exposure is to increase melanin production to protect it which can be seen when your skin freckles and tans. A suntan is the skin’s response to injury and we can conclude that there is no such thing as a “safe” suntan.

Avoiding the sun is one of the key ways to prevent skin cancer but is made more difficult in Australia with our penchant for outdoor activities and the beach. Early detection of changes to your skin such as becoming red and flaking, moles changing shape, small skin abrasions on your face, arms or legs that “heal then peel” are often signs you could have the beginnings of skin cancer.

 

There are many forms of skin cancer but the three most common are Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Malignant Melanoma.

Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCCs)
BCCs are the most common skin cancers and are mostly found on sun-exposed areas like your head and neck but can appear almost anywhere. This is a slow-growing cancer also known as a “rodent ulcer” because of its ability to invade adjacent tissues. BCC’s do not have the ability to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body).

Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCCs)
SCCs are the second most common cause of cancer and the second leading cause of death from skin cancer. They are a more aggressive form of cancer than BCCs and have the ability to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body).

Malignant Melanoma
Melanoma is the third most common form of skin cancer but is the most common cause of death from skin cancer. Melanomas typically appear as dark spots, which are irregular in either shape, contour or colour pattern. They can often develop in a pre-existing mole and any suspicious dark spots should be reviewed by your doctor, the earlier the better.

There are many forms of skin cancer but the three most common are Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Malignant Melanoma.

Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCCs)
BCCs are the most common skin cancers and are mostly found on sun-exposed areas like your head and neck but can appear almost anywhere. This is a slow-growing cancer also known as a “rodent ulcer” because of its ability to invade adjacent tissues. BCC’s do not have the ability to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body).

Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCCs)
SCCs are the second most common cause of cancer and the second leading cause of death from skin cancer. They are a more aggressive form of cancer than BCCs and have the ability to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body).

Malignant Melanoma
Melanoma is the third most common form of skin cancer but is the most common cause of death from skin cancer. Melanomas typically appear as dark spots, which are irregular in either shape, contour or colour pattern. They can often develop in a pre-existing mole and any suspicious dark spots should be reviewed by your doctor, the earlier the better.

 

The treatment which affords the best chance of cure from any skin cancer is surgical excision. This can be performed under local anaesthetic, local anaesthetic with sedation or a general anaesthetic. The skin cancer will be surgically removed using a scalpel and sent to the laboratory for assessment which is important to confirm the diagnosis and also to ensure that the cancer has been completely removed.

After removal the skin will need to be closed and in many instances the skin edges can be pulled together and simply stitched. However, sometimes when the skin cancer is large or in areas where there is no surrounding skin laxity it is impossible to achieve what is called ‘direct closure.’ In this situation the wound will need to be closed with either a skin graft or skin flap.

A skin flap is tissue adjacent to the wound that can be moved to fill in the defect and a skin graft is a piece of skin taken from elsewhere on the body and stitched onto the wound somewhat like a patch. Skin grafts are categorised as either split or full thickness.

Split-thickness skin grafts are shavings of skin typically from the thighs or buttocks that can be used to resurface large skin defects. Unfortunately, the cosmetic result is not ideal as they leave a contour deformity and are usually a slightly different colour to the surrounding skin.

Full-thickness skin grafts are harvested from in front of or behind the ear, neck or groin. This skin is slightly thicker than a split-thickness skin graft so the contour and colour match are slightly better. However, they don’t completely correct the contour deformity and there is usually some degree of colour mismatch to the area of surrounding skin.

Skin flaps have the benefit of restoring contour and having a very good colour match. This is at the cost of a slightly longer scar but the overall result is generally more cosmetically acceptable than a skin graft.

The treatment which affords the best chance of cure from any skin cancer is surgical excision. This can be performed under local anaesthetic, local anaesthetic with sedation or a general anaesthetic. The skin cancer will be surgically removed using a scalpel and sent to the laboratory for assessment which is important to confirm the diagnosis and also to ensure that the cancer has been completely removed.

After removal the skin will need to be closed and in many instances the skin edges can be pulled together and simply stitched. However, sometimes when the skin cancer is large or in areas where there is no surrounding skin laxity it is impossible to achieve what is called ‘direct closure.’ In this situation the wound will need to be closed with either a skin graft or skin flap.

A skin flap is tissue adjacent to the wound that can be moved to fill in the defect and a skin graft is a piece of skin taken from elsewhere on the body and stitched onto the wound somewhat like a patch. Skin grafts are categorised as either split or full thickness.

Split-thickness skin grafts are shavings of skin typically from the thighs or buttocks that can be used to resurface large skin defects. Unfortunately, the cosmetic result is not ideal as they leave a contour deformity and are usually a slightly different colour to the surrounding skin.

Full-thickness skin grafts are harvested from in front of or behind the ear, neck or groin. This skin is slightly thicker than a split-thickness skin graft so the contour and colour match are slightly better. However, they don’t completely correct the contour deformity and there is usually some degree of colour mismatch to the area of surrounding skin.

Skin flaps have the benefit of restoring contour and having a very good colour match. This is at the cost of a slightly longer scar but the overall result is generally more cosmetically acceptable than a skin graft.

 

After your surgery a dressing will be placed over the site and you will be allowed to go home. Specific care instructions will be given to you at your time of discharge and a follow-up appointment will be made for you to see Dr Broadhurst to have your sutures removed.

After your surgery a dressing will be placed over the site and you will be allowed to go home. Specific care instructions will be given to you at your time of discharge and a follow-up appointment will be made for you to see Dr Broadhurst to have your sutures removed.

 

At the time of your follow-up the results from your surgery will be given to you. On rare occasions not all of the skin cancer is removed during the initial operation and if this is the case a second operation will be required in order to remove the remainder. Dr Broadhurst will inform you about this when he has the laboratory results back.

At the time of your follow-up the results from your surgery will be given to you. On rare occasions not all of the skin cancer is removed during the initial operation and if this is the case a second operation will be required in order to remove the remainder. Dr Broadhurst will inform you about this when he has the laboratory results back.