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Skin cancer

What is skin cancer?

This occurs when abnormal cells develop in the skin and grow uncontrollably. There are three common types namely the basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.

Who commonly gets it?

People with a lot of exposure to ultraviolet radiation e.g the sun or tanning equipment and therefore commonly occurs on parts of the body excessively exposed to sunshine such as the face, ears, scalp. People with a lot of moles Older people (above the age of 50) are often affected, though the incidence in younger people is on the increase. People with fair or freckled skin, blond or red hair, are at a higher risk. People with blue, green or grey eyes are also more prone. People with a family history of skin cancers are at an increased risk. People with severe skin damage such as severe sunburn.


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What to look out for?

Skin cancer can present in various was but the common skin cancers usually present in one of the following ways

Non melanoma skin cancer can present as a non healing ulcer or sore that scabs, crusts and bleeds, as raised growths with rolled edges and very fine vessels on the surface and commonly a depressed or ulcerated centre, as a pearly or translucent mole or even look like a scar.

Malignant melanoma can present as a darkened or brown mole. Warning signs include itching, increase in size, changes in colour or shape and irregularity of the borders.


Basal cell carcinoma can spread to surrounding tissue causing destruction and disfigurement if not treated.
Squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma can spread to the glands and other parts of the body
Fortunately when detected and treated early, the cure rates are very good.

Do not forget!

It is necessary to be seen at regular intervals by your plastic surgeon so that any recurrence can be detected early and treated promptly

How is it treated?

There are various treatments including the use of non surgical and surgical methods. These will be discussed during the consultation.
However surgery remains the mainstay of treatment for most of the cancers.

What kind of anaesthetic is used?


The operation is usually carried out under local anaesthetic. However if the area is very large and/or involves deep structures, a general anaesthetic may be used

How is it performed?


An injection is given close to the skin cancer to make the skin numb. Then the area is removed and sent to the laboratory for analysis. The wound can be sutured directly or by re-arranging the nearby skin (local flap) or by transferring tissue form elsewhere to this area (skin graft or free flap).