Wednesday, November 19, 2008


My early years of not taking precautions when sun-bathing or working unprotected in the sun have come back to haunt me later in life. While my skin cancers are treatable by special creams or surgery, let this be a warning to younger readers, especially in my homeland of New Zealand or neighbouring Australia because of ozone depletion and extra risk from the sun's UV rays, to cover up or use protection against sunburn which is where all the problems originate. Remember that even on a cloudy day you can be at risk from the sun. The picture is not of me, but of an elderly man with advanced cancer. Mine has been diagnosed before it has become advanced.

Types of Skin Cancer:

Skin cancers are named for the type of cells that become cancerous. If skin cancer spreads from its original place to another part of the body, the new growth has the same kind of abnormal cells and the same name as the primary growth. It is still called skin cancer.


Melanoma is a tumour that develops from melanocytes (pigment cells). It most commonly occurs in the skin on parts of the body that have been sunburned, but it can appear in skin any where on the body. Melanoma can start in parts of the body other than the skin but this is very rare.

Melanoma is the least common but the most serious form of skin cancer.
New Zealand has one of the highest melanoma death rates in the world.
The first sign is a change in the colour or size of a freckle or mole or the appearance of a new spot on the skin.
It may have flecks of brown, black, blue and red in it.
It has an irregular edge and appears or changes over a period of a few weeks to months.

It is the most common cancer among 20 to 40 year olds.
The risk of melanoma increases as you get older.
Melanoma develops in weeks or months and spreads quickly.
If it is diagnosed and treated early the treatment is usually successful.
The parts of the body that can be affected are:

the eye (ocular melanoma)
the mouth, vulva or vagina (mucosal melanoma)
under fingernails or toenails (subungual melanoma).

Basal cell skin cancer:

Grows slowly. It usually occurs on areas of the skin that have been in the sun. It is most common on the face. Basal cell cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

It is the most common skin cancer (about three-quarters of all skin cancers).
It is a pale, red or pearly, smooth lump, usually on the face or neck.
It is less common in people under 40.
It is the least dangerous type of skin cancer, but can be serious if left untreated.

Squamous cell skin cancer:

Also occurs on parts of the skin that have been in the sun. But it also may be in places that are not in the sun. Squamous cell cancer sometimes spreads to lymph nodes and organs inside the body.

It is more common in people over 40.
It is a raised, crusty, non-healing sore, which often appears on a person’s hands, forearms, face or neck.
It can be lethal if left untreated.
If found early it is easily treated.

Basal and squamous are the two most common types of skin cancer. These cancers usually form on the head, face, neck, hands, and arms. These areas are exposed to the sun. But skin cancer can occur anywhere.

Sun spots (solar keratoses)
These are:

Flat, red or sometimes brown, scaling spots.
A sign of sun damage to the skin.
A warning that you may be likely to develop skin cancer.
Common in fairer-skinned people over 40 who have spent a lot of time outdoors.
Usually found on parts of the body which have had many years of sun, such as the face and hands.

Acknowledgement to NZ health publications:

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1 comment:

Dana Prince said...

Sending prayers all heals well, Peter.