How common is skin caner and who is at risk?

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. About two in three Australians will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70. Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia.

Almost 770,000 new cases of BCC and SCC are treated each year. BCC can develop in young people, but it is most common in people over 40. SCC occurs mostly in people over 50.

More than 12,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year, with the highest incidence in people over 40, especially men. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in people aged 15–29.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can develop skin cancer. However, the risk is higher in people who have:

  • fair skin, especially if it burns easily, is prone to freckles and doesn’t tan
  • red or fair hair and light-coloured eyes
  • experienced short, intense periods of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, e.g. on holidays or playing sport, especially if it caused sunburn
  • actively tanned or used solariums
  • worked outdoors
  • a weakened immune system, which could be caused by taking certain medicines after an organ transplant or being HIV-positive
  • numerous moles on their body
  • dysplastic naevi
  • a personal or family history of skin cancer.

People with olive or very dark skin naturally have more protection against UV radiation because their skin produces more melanin than fair-skinned people. However, they can still develop skin cancer.

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