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Where on the Body Can Skin Cancer Hide?

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It’s all too common to hear about skin cancer on the face, nose and ears, but not all skin cancers develop in obvious sun-exposed areas. As we’re about to find out, it’s important to check over your entire body for any potential symptoms of skin cancer.

Where do skin cancers most commonly develop?

Cancers can grow in almost any cells of the body. The most common skin cancer type, basal cell carcinoma, tends to develop on areas exposed to sunlight: the face, ears, neck, shoulders and back[1]. Squamous cell carcinoma typically develops on areas that receive a lot of sun: hands, arms, head, neck and lower legs3. The most potentially dangerous skin cancer type is melanoma, which does tend to develop on exposed skin but can also develop on areas that are not commonly exposed to the sun. This can include on the scalp, on palms and soles of the feet and even underneath toenails and fingernails[2].

The reggae singer Bob Marley was one high-profile example of this. After a malignant melanoma was found under his toenail, Marley chose not to have his toe amputated. Over several years the cancer spread throughout his body, leading to his early demise. While Marley’s specific type of melanoma was more linked to genetics than UV exposure, it does highlight how melanomas can develop in the most unexpected of places and in the most unexpected of skin types.

How do I look for skin cancer symptoms?

Skin cancers most often develop where the skin has been overexposed to the sun’s radiation. Often the skin cancer may display as an itchy, red or weeping lesion on the skin, or as a freckle or ‘mole’ that changes rapidly[3]. In other cases, the problem detected is a raised melanoma on the skin. It’s important to keep an eye on the skin all over your body and if any spots change over weeks or months, then it’s certainly worth getting them professionally checked.

Where does skin cancer spread to?

That depends entirely on the specific skin cancer type, its site of origin, its stage and its severity. Basal cell carcinoma usually develops slowly without spreading widely, while squamous cell carcinoma can spread quickly over weeks or month months[5]. Melanoma has the potential to be the fastest growing skin cancer, and if left too long it can rapidly spread (or metastasise) to surrounding tissues, lymph nodes and organs[4]. Effective sun safety and early detection are the best defences against all of the skin cancer types, so be sure to read up on prevention methods against the causes of skin cancer and book your regular checks at SunDoctors.

[1] http://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/skin-cancer/non-melanoma.html

[2] http://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/skin-cancer/melanoma.html

[3] http://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/skin-cancer.html

[4] http://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/skin-cancer/melanoma.html

[5] http://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/skin-cancer.html

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