How to help prevent skin cancer

How to help prevent skin cancer

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired damage to skin cells triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiple rapidly and form malignant tumours.

What causes skin cancer?

Skin cancer is most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds. Protecting yourself through covering up and wearing broad spectrum sunscreen, applied correctly and reapplied when necessary, is your best means of preventing skin cancer.

What are the different kinds of skin cancer?

There are different kinds of skin cancer, and they can all present differently on the body.

It is important to understand how to detect skin cancer, and if you have any concerns, be sure to have any suspicious spots or moles checked by a doctor or specialist.

Skin cancers that are malignant and left unchecked may spread, invading and damaging nearby tissue. In some cases, skin cancers can spread to vital organs, becoming deadly*.

What is my risk of skin cancer?

Your personal risk of skin cancer will depend upon a number of factors, including: your skin type; genetic predisposition; how much unprotected sun exposure you’d had during your lifetime and the number and severity of sunburns.

Why are Australians at such high risk of skin cancer?

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Approximately two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70**.

Australians are at a high level of risk, because our country sits so close to the equator. This means we have high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is the part of sunlight that causes sunburn and skin damage.

How do I prevent skin cancer?

  • Avoid getting sunburn
  • Avoid too much unprotected sun exposure
  • Use a high SPF, broad spectrum sunscreen
  • Apply correctly, and reapply every 2 hours
  • Reapply more frequently after swimming or physical activity and sweating

How do I check for skin cancer?

The best way to check for skin cancer is to get familiar with your own skin, regularly check for changes and have regular check ups with your GP.

Most people have moles, birth marks, freckles and blemishes that are nothing to worry about, but it’s important to be familiar with what your own personal marks are, so you are more likely to notice any changes. When these change they should be checked by a doctor.

Everything you need to know to prevent skin cancer

What do I look for when checking for skin cancer?

Look out for the following when checking your skin (ensure you check your whole body):

  • all spots, moles or freckles that have changed in shape, size or colour
  • a new spot you’ve found, that is different from other spots around it
  • any small, dome-shaped lumps that weren’t there before
  • a sore that doesn’t heal and/or ulcerates, or one that heals and breaks down again
  • any spots on your skin that you are worried about

How often should I check for skin cancer?

You should check for skin cancer regularly, because cancers (including melanoma) that are detected and treated early have a better outcome than most other types of cancer. If you’re familiar with your skin, you will be more likely to notice changes. If you do notice any changes, it’s important to make an appointment with your GP to have it checked out.

For more information on Skin Cancer, visit

*Staples M., et. al. (2006). Non-melanoma skin cancer in Australia: the 2002 national survey and trends since 1985.Medical Journal of Australia 2006; 184: 6-10

†The Skin Cancer Foundation