Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the skin. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Australia.  At least 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70. The risk is higher in men  than in women. Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Melanoma is the most common cancer in young Australians. Melanoma can spread rapidly and can be life threatening, if left untreated. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma.

Risk factors for skin cancer

Sun exposure is the cause of around 99% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 95% of melanoma skin cancers in Australia. There are two types of UV radiation that reach the Earth’s surface – UVA and UVB. UV radiation causes sunburn, premature ageing of the skin, eye damage and skin cancer. UV radiation changes the structure of the DNA in the skin cells. Overexposure to UV radiation permanently damages the skin. Sun protection throughout our lives is important, particularly during childhood. UV exposure in childhood greatly increases the chance of getting melanoma later in life because the damaged cells have time to grow and develop into cancer.
Solariums expose the user to UVA and UVB radiation, increasing their risk of developing skin cancer. Cancer Councils does not recommend using solariums for cosmetic tanning under any circumstance.
Sunburn at any age, whether serious or mild, can cause permanent skin damage. Sunburn is a major risk factor for developing melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Melanoma is more likely to occur in people who are exposed to the sun every now and then, not a little bit every day. However, people who have accumulated a lot of sun exposure continuously (e.g. outdoor workers) are also at increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancers.
When skin is exposed to UV radiation more melanin is produced, causing the skin to darken or ‘tan’. Having a tan is a sign that the skin has been overexposed to UV radiation and damage has occurred, putting you at an increased risk of developing skin cancer. Even a light tan shows that the skin has been damaged. Too much UV radiation also makes you look old before your time. There is no such thing as a healthy or safe tan.