You will need to have regular check-ups after treatment for skin cancer. Your follow-up schedule will depend on the type of cancer and treatment. If your wound doesn’t heal, or if you notice any other skin changes, see your doctor.
Having skin cancer increases your risk of developing more skin cancers. Sun damage builds up over time and cannot be reversed. However, you can prevent further damage to your skin. Follow the steps below, make sun protection a part of your lifestyle, and visit your doctor for regular check-ups.
UV radiation from the sun causes skin cancer, but it is also the best natural source of vitamin D, which is needed to develop and maintain strong and healthy bones. The amount of sunlight you need for vitamin D depends on several factors, including the UV level, your skin type and your lifestyle. UV levels vary across Australia, so the time you need to spend in the sun will be determined by your location, the season and time of day, cloud coverage and the environment.
Getting more sun than recommended does not increase your vitamin D levels, but it does increase your skin cancer risk. Short, incidental sun exposure, such as walking from the office to get lunch or hanging out the washing, is the best way to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.
Use a combination of measures to protect your skin from the sun.
Wear clothing that covers your neck, shoulders, arms, legs and torso. The best protection comes from closely woven fabrics. For clothes designed for sun protection, the higher the UPF (ultraviolet protection factor), the greater the protection.
Apply a water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30+ or higher at least 20 minutes before going outside, as it takes this long to sink into the skin. Reapply every two hours, after swimming and after any activity that causes you to sweat or rub the sunscreen off.
Wear a broad-brimmed hat that protects your face, neck and ears.
Use shade from trees, umbrellas, buildings or any type of canopy. Be aware that UV radiation is reflective and bounces off surfaces such as concrete, snow, water and sand, causing sun damage even when you think you’re shaded.
Wear sunglasses that meet the Australian and New Zealand standard AS/NZS 1067:2003 and have an EPF (eye protection factor) of 10. Wraparound styles are best.
See sunsmart.com.au for more information about protecting your skin.
Skin cancer treatments such as surgery, curettage and cautery, and cryotherapy often leave scars. In most cases, your doctor will do everything they can to make the scar less noticeable. Most scars will fade with time.
You may worry about how the scar looks, especially if it’s on your face. Various cosmetics are available to help conceal scarring. Your hairstyle or clothing might also cover the scar. You may want to talk to a counsellor, friend or family member about how you are feeling after any changes to your appearance.
Look Good Feel Better is a national program that helps people manage the appearance-related effects of cancer treatment. Workshops are run for men, women and teenagers. For information about services in your area, visit lgfb.org.au or call 1800 650 960.
Reviewed by: Prof H Peter Soyer, Chair in Dermatology, Director, Dermatology Research Centre, The University of Queensland School of Medicine, Head, South-West Cluster, Deputy Head, School of Medicine, Director, Dermatology Department, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Christine Archer, Melanoma and Skin Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, ACT; Irena Brozek, Research and Development Officer, Cancer Programs, Cancer Council NSW; A/Prof T Michael Hughes, Surgical Oncologist, Associate Professor of Surgery, Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Simon Lee, Head of Surgery, The Skin Hospital, Dermatologist, Sydney Skin, NSW; A/Prof Jonathan Stretch, Plastic Surgeon, Melanoma Institute Australia; Mark Strickland, SunSmart Manager, Cancer Council Western Australia, WA; Dr Tony Tonks, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Canberra Plastic Surgery, ACT; Leslie Tortora, Cancer Information and Support Service, Cancer Council Victoria, VIC; Dr April Wong, Poche Fellow, Melanoma Institute Australia; Robert Wood, Consumer.