We regularly hear about Cancer in the media and in our daily lives with the focus generally being on breast cancer and prostate cancer due to their devastating impacts. However, very few people realise that skin cancer is by far the most common cancer amongst all age groups across Australia. It is also important to understand that skin cancer in particular gets much worse as you travel further north towards the equator, so unfortunately in North Queensland, we have the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.
Today we will explore some of the common myths and misconceptions about skin cancer, in particular relating to Cairns and the North Queensland region.
MYTH 1: Skin Cancer only occurs in older people
The youngest person I have seen with skin cancer, in particular a Melanoma cancer, was only 16 years old. Skin cancer is obviously not a disease that only affects the elderly and this is a myth that puts thousands of young Australians at risk every year.
MYTH 2: All skin cancer comes from moles
Most people think that skin cancer only comes from moles where in fact, skin cancer is mostly non-mole cancer. Skin cancer is related to damage to the skin from previous years of sun damage or even just occurs due to a genetic predisposition (that is somebody in the family has had skin cancer).
MYTH 3: Skin checks don’t save lives
It is important for people to understand that they need to be proactive about having skin checks because skin cancer can present as the tiniest lesion even the size of a match head and that can be lethal in some circumstances. The average person simply isn’t physically capable of checking their entire skin for signs of cancer, nor are they usually equipped with the knowledge of what they should be looking for.
MYTH 4: Skin cancer can only occur where sun damage has occurred
A common misconception that people have is that skin cancer can only occur in sun exposed areas and as a result, often people will seek skin checks on their face, arms and back where they have previously experienced direct sun exposure or damage. Unfortunately, skin cancer can occur anywhere on the skin as the skin is one single organ (the largest organ in the body). If you get sun damage on your face and arms, then it affects all of your skin and you can therefore get skin cancer anywhere on your skin (including under your feet, between your toes, in the groin, under arms and under breasts). I have seen cancers in these areas that patients thought could not possibly be cancer due to the lack of sun exposure to these areas.
MYTH 5: All skin cancers are the same.
It is important to understand that there are many different types of skin cancer and the most common of these varieties is called the basal cell cancer. This may present as a tiny pink nodule or papule on the skin and even though this is not necessarily a lethal cancer, it can cause significant disfigurement if not treated in its early stages.
The other main types of cancer are the squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) or squamous cell cancer, and melanoma. While many people think that melanoma is the most common form of skin cancer (or even that melanoma makes up all skin cancer cases) the reality is that Melanoma is thankfully the least frequent of the skin cancers. It is important however to note that while it is not the most common skin cancer, melanoma is by far the most deadly. Sadly, I have seen cases where very tiny melanomas result in the death of patients. This is why it is so essential for people to get a skin check, as I can recall two cases recently where patients had small melanomas that were only detected early as a result of skin checks. This is evidence of the lifesaving abilities of skin cancer checks.
Cairns Skin Cancer Checks –
For more information on skin cancer checks and skin cancer treatments in Cairns, contact Dr Peter Smith MBBS, FRACGP, Dip.DERM, (Aus)MSCCA, MTACM at Clifton Beach Medical & Surgical.
Clifton Beach Medical and Surgical have all the facilities and qualified doctors to provide skin cancer detection, treatment and surgery, all in the one easy location on Cairns northern beaches.
TOP 5 - Cairns Skin Cancer Myths