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Dermatologist at Work


Skin cancer is the uncontrollable growth of skin cells, mostly due to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Australia and especially Queensland have one of the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, which is 2-3 times the rate of the United Kingdom and North America. Two out of three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. This is 434,000 people each year and accounts for 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers.

Early diagnosis of skin cancer will make it easier to treat, minimise potential scarring or even death. You should check your skin for any non-healing sores, new spots or existing moles that change than consult your doctor.

Basal cell cancer (BCC) and squamous cell cancer (SCC) are the most common types of skin cancers. Fortunately, these cancers are relatively easy to treat; however, they can cause extensive local damage if left alone for a long time, such as invading the nerves or destroying the eye itself. These cancers can be aggressive at times and cause 500 deaths per year.

Melanomas are less common types of skin cancer; however, these can spread to your internal organs and cause approximately 1500 deaths per year in Australia. Early diagnosis is crucial for successful treatment.

The top layer of the skin, known as the epidermis, has three common types of skin cell, all of which can develop into cancerous lesions or tumours. These are...

Squamous Cells

Squamous cells are the flat-shaped cells on the outer layer of the skin. Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the type of cancer that affects these cells and it can be fast-growing and aggressive.

Basal Cells

These cells are beneath the outer layer of squamous cells and continually divide to form new squamous cells to replace dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. Basal Cell Carcinoma can form in these cells and this is the commonest form of skin cancer.


Melanocytes are cells whose main role is to protect the skin from the sun via the melanin pigment they produce. When the skin is exposed to sun melanocytes become more active, making the skin tan. Cancer of the melanocytes is called melanoma and is the fourth most common cancer in Australia (after prostate, breast and bowel cancers) with around 13,000 Australians diagnosed with melanoma every year.

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