Skin spots to watch

Friday, November 21, 2003
With our outdoor lifestyle and warm climate, Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. It's important to have your skin checked regularly by a doctor and to be on the lookout for any new spots and ones that change in shape and/or colour. The Cancer Council NSW has provided the following information to guide you.

Skin cancers - see your doctor

Dangerous skin cancer that can be fatal if not diagnosed early. Treated early, 95% of melanomas are cured. If untreated, cancer cells spread to other parts of the body. Appears as a new spot, or an existing spot, freckle or mole that changes colour, size or shape. Usually has an irregular or smudgy outline. May be blotchy and more than one colour; brown, black, blue, red or grey. Grows over weeks to months, anywhere on the body.

Nodular melanoma
A highly dangerous form of melanoma. Can appear as a small, round lump on the skin. May be black or brown, pink or red in colour (resembling a blood blister). Can feel firm to the touch and, if neglected, will begin to bleed and crust. Grows quickly and can be life threatening if not detected and removed promptly. The lesion may be deeper, and so more dangerous, than appears on the surface.

Squamous cell carcinoma
Not as dangerous as melanoma but may spread to other parts of the body if not treated. A thickened red, scaly spot. Later it may bleed easily or ulcerate. Appears on sites most often exposed to the sun. Grows over some months.

Basal cell carcinoma
Most common and least dangerous skin cancer. Appears as a lump or scaling area. Red, pale or pearly in colour. As it grows it may become ulcerated like an unhealing sore or one that heals then breaks down again. Grows slowly, usually on the head, neck and upper torso.

Warning signs - see your doctor
Dysplastic naevi
Not skin cancer, but a warning that you may be more prone to melanoma. Often flat, fairly large moles which share some of the features of early melanoma. Characterised by irregular borders and uneven color with multiple shades of brown and sometimes pink.

Solar keratoses
Not a skin cancer but a warning that you are prone to developing skin cancer. Characterised by red, flattish, scaling areas which may sting if scratched. Sunspots appear on sun exposed skin in the over 40 age group.

For more information, visit the Cancer Council NSW.

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