About skin cancer
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australia and New Zealand – the incidence of skin cancer is 4 times the incidence of all other cancers combined. Skin cancer kills around 1600 people each year. It is caused by over-exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, particularly during childhood. There are two broad types of skin cancer:
  • Melanoma skin cancer
    the least common but the most serious type of skin cancer, resulting in about 75% of deaths from skin cancer
  • Non-melanoma skin cancer
    the most common skin cancer, resulting in about 25% of deaths – usually easily treated, but can be serious if left untreated. Non-melanoma skin cancer includes two subtypes: squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.
In Australia over 8,800 people are diagnosed with melanoma each year and over 374,000 with non-melanoma skin cancer. One in every 2 people that grow up in Australia is likely to suffer from skin cancer.

Each year in New Zealand around 1,800 people are diagnosed with melanoma and around 65,000 with non-melanoma skin cancer.

Skin cancer costs the Australian and New Zealand health systems over $300 million each year.

Skin cancer signs to look out for include:
  • a crusty, non-healing sore
  • a small lump which is red, pale or pearly in colour
  • a new spot, freckle or mole changing in colour, thickness or shape over a period of several weeks to months. Give special attention to spots that are dark brown to black, red or blue-black.
If you think you have skin cancer you should see your doctor immediately. The good news is that most skin cancers can be cured if detected early and can be prevented if you stay out of the sun.

Other damage from the sun
The organs affected by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun are the skin and eyes. In addition to skin cancer, UV radiation causes sunburn and skin ageing.

Eye damage can occur as a result of acute or prolonged UV radiation exposure. This damage includes:
  • painful eye inflammation eg. snow blindness
  • a growth over the cornea (pterygium)
  • cloudiness of the lens (cataract)
  • cancer on the surface of the eye.
Some of these conditions can lead to blindness.

For more information about skin cancer, visit related websites.