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Types Skin Cancer


Nicole Capper

Former Mrs SA Nicole Capper, melanoma skin cancer Survivor

There are two main categories of skin cancer, namely, melanoma and non-melanoma.

Melanoma, is less common than other skin cancers, but it is the most dangerous. It is of special importance to note that excessive ultraviolet (UV) radiation received as a child, increases the risk of melanoma later in life. Melanoma is linked with short, sharp bursts of over-exposure, so even one incident of bad sunburn, especially in childhood, can later on in life, trigger damage and develop into a melanoma.

Former Mrs South Africa, Nicole Capper, a skin cancer Survivor says, “As a cancer Survivor sun protection is a massive focus for me. Being diagnosed with malignant melanoma at 25 rocked my world, but I was lucky to have caught it early enough. We’re so aware of other potential health concerns and we make sure we visit specialists annually for other standard check-ups, and yet our skin is neglected for the most part, often until it’s too late. Sunscreen is always healthy. And regular dermatologist appointments should be mandatory. We owe it to our families and communities to stay healthy, and our skin is no exception.”

Non-melanoma skin cancers mainly comprise Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Of these, Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common and the least dangerous. These cancers are linked to long term exposure to the sun, for example people with professional sports careers or outside occupations. If left untreated, these can lead to disfigurement, or the loss of an eye, nose or ear, so early detection is important.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is most frequently seen on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the head, neck and back of the hands. Although women frequently get SCC on their lower legs, it is possible to get SCC on any part of the body, including the inside of the mouth, lips and genitals. People who use tanning beds have a much higher risk of getting SCC – they also tend to get SCC earlier in life.

Other skin cancers include:

Kaposi Sarcoma |  Merkel Cell Carcinoma | Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma

The following conditions can give rise to cancer or be mistaken as cancer:

  • Spitz Naevi (usually present in toddlers and children), can mistakenly be thought to be Malignant Melanoma because of the close resemblance…
  • Actinic Cheilitis and Actinic Keratosis – are pre-cancerous conditions that can lead to Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • Bowen’s Disease – is a pre-cancerous condition that can lead to Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • Gorlin-Goltz Syndrome, is an inherited medical condition involving defects within multiple body systems such as the skin, nervous system, eyes, endocrine system, and bones. People with this syndrome are particularly prone to developing a common form of non-melanoma skin cancer, e.g. Basal Cell Carcinoma
  • Solar Elastosis – is a pre-cursor to Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP) – an inherited condition characterised by an extreme sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight. Most people with XP develop multiple skin cancers during their lifetime.


  • The sun is only dangerous in summer or on a hot day
  • Sunscreen will protect me completely from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays
  • One or two cases of sunburn won’t result in skin cancer
  • People with darker skins are not at risk for getting skin cancer
  • Sunbeds are a safer alternate to obtain a tan – find out why sunbeds should be banned…

Infographic: SunSmart Truth vs Myths

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