Skin cancer: prevention is better than cure
Too many Australians suffer from skin cancer in their lifetime. Regular skin checks and adequate sun protection are vital to avoid this potentially deadly disease.
Skin cancer is extremely prevalent in Australia. Most people have either had a skin cancer burnt off or cut out at some stage in their life. Regular skin checks are so important and we should all be aware of any spots that have changed in appearance.
We all know that sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer so whether you tan or not, sun protection is vital this summer. Wearing sun cream, a hat and avoiding long exposure in the sun should be part of your normal routine when planning a BBQ or day out at the beach.
When you get sunburnt you are damaging your DNA and once your DNA is damaged, skin cancer can then occur. Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of your skin cells. There are different types of skin cancers and different treatments available.
Treatment will depend on the type, location and size of the cancer and your doctor can discuss the different options that are available. Many skin cancers occur on the face and patients are usually very concerned not only the skin cancer is completely removed but that the reconstruction will give the best possible result with the least obvious scarring and defect.
Many patients are referred to a plastic surgeon for this type of procedure. Some plastic surgeons specialise in facial skin cancer and the subsequent reconstruction.
They remove the cancer and then will reconstruct the defect using different flaps and/ or grafts to achieve the optimal outcome.
Often patients are surprised at how large the defect is once the skin cancer has been removed. A skin cancer can look tiny on the surface of the skin but may invade a large area under the skin. The surgeon needs to remove the cancer cells as well as a margin of normal cells to try and prevent recurrence. This can often leave a defect of four to five centimetres.
The surgeon will reconstruct the area and then advise you on how to minimise the scarring after the operation.
This summer remember the consequences of sun exposure because skin cancer prevention is far better than having to go through reconstructive surgery.
If you or your doctor finds a skin cancer, see a qualified plastic surgeon for removal and reconstruction.
Dr John Flood is a plastic surgeon and Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. This article is published with the approval of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Facts about skin cancer
Arm yourself with the facts about skin cancer and remember – prevention is better than cure.
- Sunburn damages DNA and once DNA is damaged, skin cancer can occur.
- Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells.
- There are different types of skin cancers: Basal cell carcinomas, Squamous cell carcinomas and Melanomas.
- Melanomas are the most serious type of skin cancer and are responsible for most skin cancer deaths. These can develop from normal skin or from an existing mole.
- Melanomas can be hereditary.
- The face, lips, ears, neck, chest, legs, arms and hands are all common areas for skin cancers to develop because of sun exposure.
- Skin cancer can also affect areas that have no sun exposure. It affects all people and all skin types whether you tan easily or not.
- There are different treatments available for skin cancer.
- Treatment depends on type, location and size of the cancer.
- A skin cancer can look tiny on the surface of the skin but may invade a large area under the skin.
- Some normal cells, along with the cancer cells need to be removed to prevent recurrence. This can leave a defect of four to five centimetres.