Skin cancer types

Skin cancer can develop in anyone, no matter your skin type or age, so it is vital to use daily sun protection and get regular skin checks. Whilst we have to remember that there are some rare forms of skin cancer, the good news is that most skin cancers can be prevented or found early. Early detection is vital for the best treatment outcomes.

In Australia:

  • Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, accounting for 80 per cent of all cancers.
  • Over 2,000 Australians die from skin cancer every year.
  • Two out of three Australians will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.
  • Melanoma is the most common cancer in people aged 15-39 years.
  • If detected early, the five-year melanoma survival rate is 90 per cent for men and 95 per cent for women.

To find out if you are at risk of skin cancer, take a quick quiz now


Seborrhoeic Keratosis Dysplastic Naevi Basal Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma Melanoma Nodular melanoma


Harmless lesions

Freckles are harmless coloured spots of 1 to 10mm.

Moles are harmless coloured spots of 1 to 10mm. They are uniform in shape and colour, may be raised and have uneven boarders.

Seborrhoeic Keratosis
These wart-like spots sit on top of the skin and usually develop by the age of 60. The colour can be pale, orange or black. The size varies from a few millimetres to 2cm.


High-risk lesions

Dysplastic Naevi
These odd-shaped moles are benign but might indicate a greater risk of developing melanoma. They have irregular borders, are usually 510mm wide and are uneven in colour with shades of brown and pink.

Solar Keratoses
These non-cancerous spots are a warning sign that the skin has been damaged by the sun and that you may develop skin cancer, especially if the spots become lumpy or tender. Typical characteristics are red, scaly areas which can sting if scratched.


Types of skin cancer 

Basal Cell Carcinoma
This is the most common but least dangerous form of skin cancer which accounts for about 66% of all skin cancers. It usually appears as a lump or scaling area on areas often exposed to the sun, including the head, face, neck, shoulders and back. It often grows slowly over months or years but does not spread to other parts of the body. The small or round spots are usually red, pale or pearly in colour and can become ulcerated like a sore, bleed and fail to heal. Some spots can look like a patch of eczema.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This skin cancer is not as dangerous as melanoma but if it is left untreated, it can spread to other body parts. It grows over several months and usually appears on areas most often exposed to the sun. Typical characteristics are thick, red and scaly spots.

This is the most dangerous form of skin cancer which can spread to other parts of the body. It can appear anywhere on the body and is usually a new spot or an existing spot which changed in colour, shape or size. It has irregular borders and more than one colour.

Nodular Melanoma
This aggressive type of melanoma will spread to other body parts if it is left untreated. It may be red, pink, black or brown in colour. It is usually a dome shaped, firm raised lump which grows in size quickly and may bleed or crust. Some flat melanoma may develop nodular areas later.


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