Skin cancer develops in the cells in the epidermis – the top or outer layer of the skin. UV radiation penetrates the skin and can cause damage to skin cells’ DNA. If the body is unable to repair this damage the cell can begin to divide and grow in an uncontrolled way. This growth can eventually form a tumour.
Skin cancers are named after the type of cell they start from:
Exposure to UV radiation is the main reason that causes skin cells to become cancer cells. In most parts of NSW, UV radiation levels remain high enough to damage skin most of the year round.
Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world:
- Two in three Australians (2 in 3 men and 3 in 5 women) will develop some form of skin cancer before the age of 70.
- Over 750,000 Australians are treated for skin cancer every year.
- More than 2000 Australians die each from skin cancer every year.
And although skin cancer is more likely to occur in people who are older, it is important to remember that melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is a common cancer in young people.
Fortunately nearly all skin cancers can be prevented by protecting yourself from the sun and most skin cancers can be cured if they are diagnosed and treated early.