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Types of skin cancer

Due to high levels of ultraviolet light in New Zealand, up to two in three New Zealanders develop skin cancer during their lifetime. The good news is that most lesions can be fully removed and cured if diagnosed early. Some types of skin cancer can be diagnosed at the pre-cancerous ("in-situ) stage. 

Types of skin cancer

These are the most common forms of skin cancer that we see in New Zealand:


Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer which may spread if not recognised and treated early. We use advanced technologies to enable early diagnosis of melanoma. When removed at the early stages a simple minor surgery is usually curative. Sometimes it is advised that an additional "safety margin" of skin is also removed to prevent recurrence. 


Melanomas may develop from existing moles, however approximately 80% of melanomas arise as a new skin lesion which may be either flat or raised, and may be any colour. A mole that is changing or growing should be checked by a specialist.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma are a common form of skin cancer which are often found on sun exposed skin. Surgical removal and/or radiotherapy is important to prevent progression and spread.


Usually after a diagnosis and removal of SCC follow up is recommended in the following 3-6 months to examine the skin for any further suspicious lesions and to palpate lymph nodes. 

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

Basal cell carcinoma are the most common form of skin cancer, especially in sun exposed skin. They may look like a red patch (similar to dermatitis), a nodule or a wound/ulcer. The good news is that these are usually slow growing and do not tend to spread to other parts of the body. 


Some types and locations of BCCs may be treated with liquid nitrogen or chemotherapy cream such as aldara or efudix whereas other types of BCCs such as nodular, cystic or morpheaform BCCs require treatment with surgical removal or radiotherapy. 


Other rarer forms of skin cancer include Merkel cell tumour, dermatofibrosarcoma protruberans and angiosarcoma. 

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