May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month


May 2023 
Skin cancer is almost always curable when caught early, so it's important to protect yourself and get checked as early detection is key.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and as summer approaches, many of us are spending more time outdoors. Though preventable, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide. But early detection is key. 


If spotted early, up to 90 per cent of cases are curable. In the case of melanoma skin cancer, spotting it early can save your life. For this reason it is important to get to know your skin, check it every month for changes and speak to your doctor if you are worried.

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the main cause of skin cancer. UVA and UVB are the two main types of sun rays, and both cause skin cancer by damaging the DNA in our skin cells. Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays in as little as 15 minutes. 


Anyone can get skin cancer, but people with certain characteristics are at greater risk:

  • A lighter natural skin colour
  • Skin that burns, freckles or reddens easily
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Blond or red hair
  • Certain types and a large number of moles
  • A family history of skin cancer
  • A history of skin cancer
  • Older age

The two broad categories of skin cancer are melanoma and non-melanoma. 

  • Melanoma

Melanoma is quite rare but greater numbers of people are being diagnosed with it each year. It is also a disease that affects young people. It is a type of skin cancer that arises in the pigment producing skin cells. It is one of the most serious forms of skin cancer, but if detected early, it is very treatable. If not, it can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious medical issues. 


  • Non Melanoma Skin Cancer (NMSC)

NMSC is any skin cancer that is not a Malignant Melanoma. Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) are the most common types. They tend to grow in areas of the body that have been exposed to the sun and are more common in older people. 

Here are some ways you can be sun smart and lower your risk of developing skin cancer.

  • Limit your time in the sun. UV rays are the strongest between 11am and 3pm. Take a break from the sun and spend time in the shade.
  • Apply broad spectrum(UVA/UVB) sunscreen generously. Use at least SPF 30 or higher even when it’s cool and cloudy. UV rays, not the temperature, do the damage.
  • Apply sun cream about 20-30 minutes before you go out into the sun.
  • Reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours, or immediately after activities like swimming, towelling dry or if you’ve been sweating a lot.
  • Don’t forget to apply sun cream to those easy to miss places - lips, tops of ears, back of neck, feet and scalp.
  • Make sure your sunscreen is not out of date. Most have a shelf life of two years.
  • While lighter skin types are more prone to developing skin cancer, all skin types can develop it. Whatever you skin type, you should still use sunscreen and never let your skin burn.
  • Wear loose and light-coloured clothing that covers your skin when possible, and wear sunglasses with UV protection and a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and neck.
  • Take extra caution around reflective surfaces like water or snow.
  • Avoid tanning beds, which can cause serious long-term skin damage.
  • Checking your skin will help you spot any skin cancer early on. The earlier that skin cancer is caught the better the chances are of successful treatment.

The most common signs of skin cancer are changes on your skin, such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in a mole. Experts recommend performing monthly skin self-exams. 

Skin cancer can appear in a number of ways including any of the following:

  • A small lump
  • Flat, red spot
  • Firm, red lump
  • A lump or spot that is tender to touch
  • An ulcer that will not heal
  • A lump with a scaly top
  • Rough, scaly patches
  • A new or changing mole

If you’re concerned about a mole or mark on your skin, get in touch with your doctor, who may refer you to a dermatologist for further checks.

Treatment of non-melanoma can include surgery, laser therapy, radiotherapy and photodynamic therapy (PDT). The treatment used will depend on the type, size and location of the non-melanoma skin cancer you have. Treatment for melanoma depends on the grade and stage of the cancer, as it can spread to other parts of the body. It can range from surgical excision for stage 1 and 2 cancers, to immunotherapy, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. 
At Allianz Partners, our mission is to keep you well. Whether you need help, advice or support, our Helpline is here for you 24/7. Contact us today.