Life after treatment for skin cancer
After treatment, you will need regular check-ups to confirm the cancer hasn’t come back and to look for new skin cancers. People who’ve had skin cancer have a higher risk of developing more skin cancers.
It’s important to prevent further damage to your skin. Find out ways to make sun protection a part of your lifestyle.
It’s also important to check your skin regularly and to visit your doctor to develop a follow-up plan. Ask your doctor how often you need to have full skin checks.
Learn more about:
- Understanding sun protection
- Sun exposure and vitamin D
- Protecting your skin from the sun
- Changes to your appearance
After a skin cancer diagnosis, you need to take special care to protect your skin from the sun’s UV radiation. Using a sunscreen daily when the UV level is forecast to be 3 or above has been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer.
The UV Index shows the intensity of the sun’s UV radiation. It can help you work out when to use sun protection. An index of 3 or above means that UV levels are high enough to damage unprotected skin, and you need to use more than one type of sun protection.
The recommended daily sun protection times are the times of day the UV levels are expected to be 3 or higher. The daily sun protection times will vary according to where you live and the time of year.
Some medicines and health conditions may make the skin more sensitive to UV radiation, causing it to burn or be damaged by the sun more quickly or easily. Ask your doctor if this applies to you and if there are any extra things you should do to protect your skin. You may need to use sun protection all the time, whatever the UV level is.
Sun exposure and vitamin D
UV radiation from the sun causes skin cancer, but it is also the best source of vitamin D. People need vitamin D to develop and maintain strong, healthy bones.
The body can absorb only a set amount of vitamin D at a time. Getting more sun than recommended does not increase your vitamin D levels, but it does increase your skin cancer risk. Most people get enough vitamin D through incidental exposure to the sun, while still using sun protection. When the UV Index is 3 or above, this may mean spending just a few minutes outdoors on most days of the week.
After a diagnosis of skin cancer, talk to your doctor about the best ways to get enough vitamin D while reducing your risk of developing more skin cancers. Your doctor may advise you to limit your sun exposure as much as possible. In some cases, this may mean you don’t get enough sun exposure to maintain your vitamin D levels. Your doctor may tell you to take a supplement.
Podcast for people affected by cancer
A/Prof Stephen Shumack, Dermatologist, Royal North Shore Hospital and The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Margaret Chua, Radiation Oncologist, Head of Radiation Oncology, Skin and Melanoma, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; John Clements, Consumer; Aoife Conway, Skin Lead and Radiation Oncology Nurse, GenesisCare, Mater Hospital, NSW; Sandra Donaldson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kath Lockier, Consumer; Dr Isabel Gonzalez Matheus, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Principal House Officer, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; A/Prof Andrew Miller, Dermatologist, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Dr Helena Rosengren, Chair Research Committee, Skin Cancer College of Australasia, and Medical Director, Skin Repair Skin Cancer Clinic, QLD; Dr Michael Wagels, Staff Specialist Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Princess Alexandra Hospital and Surgical Treatment and Rehabilitation Service, and Senior Lecturer, The University of Queensland, QLD; David Woods, Consumer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.