Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Skin cancer and melanomas

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australia. Skin cancer is a disease of the body’s skin cells caused mainly by cumulative exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun.

Cancer is a group of diseases in which cells are aggressive (grow and divide without respect to normal limits), invasive (invade and destroy adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastatic (spread to other locations in the body).

There are two types of skin cancers:

  • Melanoma - is a serious type of cancer that begins in the skin and can spread to other organs in the body.
  • Non-melanoma skin cancer - refers to a group of skin cancers that affect the upper layers of skin.

The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole. This can happen anywhere on the body, but most often on the back, legs, arms and face.

In many cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and have more than one colour. They may also be larger than normal moles and can sometimes be itchy or bleed.

Non-melanoma skin cancers are usually named after the type of skin cell from which they develop. The two most common types are:

  • basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
  • squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

Early detection improves survival and other outcomes.

Get to know your skin. If you find a suspicious spot or mole, see your doctor as soon as possible. Skin cancer is diagnosed by physical examination and biopsy. Biopsy is a quick and simple procedure where part or all of the spot is removed and sent to a laboratory. It may be done by your family doctor or you can be referred to a dermatologist or surgeon. Results may take about a week to be ready.

Last reviewed: September 2016

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 220 results

Melanoma - Skin Cancer | myVMC

Malignant melanoma is a deadly type of skin cancer associated with sun exposure. Australians has the one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Melanoma and skin cancer support

Information on support services available to people with melanoma and skin cancer.

Read more on WA Health website

Skin Cancers - Skin Cancer Clinic

The Common Skin Cancers in The Skin Cancer Clinic. Skin Cancers are common in Australia: BCC, SCC & Melanoma account for most skin cancers. Solar Keratosis...

Read more on My Skin Check website

Skin Cancer Self-Check - Skin Cancer Clinic

How and Why do a skin cancer self check? Read all about the benefits, risks, and best method from an experienced Skin Cancer Doctor.

Read more on My Skin Check website

Types of skin cancer

There are 3 types of skin cancer and they are named after the type of skin cell they start from. These are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma skin cancer.

Read more on WA Health website

Melanoma - myDr.com.au

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. Most melanomas arise as a new spot on previously normal skin, rather than from a pre-existing mole.

Read more on myDr website

Nail Melanoma - Skin Cancer Clinic

Nail melanoma appears as pigmented lines along the length of the nail - including the base. Thankfully, other causes of nail pigmentation are commoner.

Read more on My Skin Check website

Risk factors for skin cancer - SunSmart

Sun exposure is the cause of most skin cancer. Less than 5% of all melanomas can be explained by an inherited gene.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

Skin Check - Skin Cancer Clinic

The aim of the skin check is to make an early diagnosis of skin cancer & melanoma whilst keeping biopsy rate as low as possible. A full skin check is a head ...

Read more on My Skin Check website

Atypical Mole - Skin Cancer Clinic

Atypical Mole (Atypical nevus) may be part of the Atypical Mole Syndrome with an increased risk of melanoma.

Read more on My Skin Check website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback