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Skin cancer


Life after skin cancer treatment


After treatment, you will need regular check-ups to confirm the cancer hasn’t come back and to look for new skin cancers. People who’ve had skin cancer have a higher risk of developing more skin cancers.

It’s important to prevent further damage to your skin, to check your skin regularly and to visit your doctor to develop a follow-up plan. Ask your doctor how often you need to have full skin checks.

Your guide to best cancer care

A lot can happen in a hurry when you’re diagnosed with cancer. The guide to best cancer care for basal and squamous cell carcinoma can help you make sense of what should happen. It will help you with what questions to ask your health professionals to make sure you receive the best care at every step.

Read the guide

Understanding sun protection

After a skin cancer diagnosis, you need to take special care to protect your skin from the sun’s UV radiation. It is especially important to follow SunSmart behaviour

Do not use solariums. Also known as tanning beds or sun lamps, solariums give off artificial UV radiation and are banned for commercial use in Australia.

Daily sun protection times

The UV Index shows the intensity of the sun’s UV radiation. It can help you work out when to use sun protection.

An index of 3 or above means that UV levels are high enough to damage unprotected skin, and you need to use more than one type of sun protection. Using sunscreen daily when the UV level is forecast to be 3 or above has been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

The recommended daily sun protection times are the times of day the UV levels are expected to be 3 or higher. The daily sun protection times will vary according to where you live and the time of year. 

Some medicines and health conditions may make the skin more sensitive to UV radiation, causing it to burn or be damaged by the sun more quickly or easily. Ask your doctor if this applies to you and if there are any extra things you should do to protect your skin. You may need to use sun protection all the time, whatever the UV level is. 

Check the SunSmart UV alert

Sun exposure and vitamin D

UV radiation from the sun causes skin cancer, but it is also the best source of vitamin D. People need vitamin D to develop and maintain strong, healthy bones.

The body can absorb only a set amount of vitamin D at a time. Getting more sun than recommended does not increase your vitamin D levels, but it does increase your skin cancer risk. Most people get enough vitamin D through incidental exposure to the sun, while still using sun protection. When the UV Index is 3 or above, this may mean spending just a few minutes outdoors on most days of the week.

After a diagnosis of skin cancer, talk to your doctor about the best ways to get enough vitamin D while reducing your risk of developing more skin cancers. Your doctor may advise you to limit your sun exposure as much as possible. In some cases, this may mean you don’t get enough sun exposure to maintain your vitamin D levels, and your doctor may tell you to take a supplement.

 

Changes to your appearance

Skin cancer treatments such as surgery, curettage and electrodesiccation, and cryotherapy often leave a scar. In most cases, your doctor will do everything they can to make the scar less noticeable. Most scars will fade with time. Skin treated with radiation therapy may change in colour, and appear lighter or darker depending on your skin tone.

You may worry about how the scar looks, especially if it’s on your face. Various cosmetics are available to help cover scarring. Your hairstyle or clothing might also cover the scar. Talk to your doctor about treatments that can help improve the appearance of scars.

You may want to talk to a counsellor, friend or family member about how you are feeling after any changes to your appearance. You can also call 13 11 20 to speak to our cancer nurses.

Learn more about emotions and cancer

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Understanding Skin Cancer

Download our Understanding Skin Cancer booklet to learn more

Download now

 

Expert content reviewers:

A/Prof Stephen Shumack, Dermatologist, Royal North Shore Hospital and The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Margaret Chua, Radiation Oncologist, Head of Radiation Oncology, Skin and Melanoma, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; John Clements, Consumer; Aoife Conway, Skin Lead and Radiation Oncology Nurse, GenesisCare, Mater Hospital, NSW; Sandra Donaldson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kath Lockier, Consumer; Dr Isabel Gonzalez Matheus, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Principal House Officer, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; A/Prof Andrew Miller, Dermatologist, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Dr Helena Rosengren, Chair Research Committee, Skin Cancer College of Australasia, and Medical Director, Skin Repair Skin Cancer Clinic, QLD; Dr Michael Wagels, Staff Specialist Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Princess Alexandra Hospital and Surgical Treatment and Rehabilitation Service, and Senior Lecturer, The University of Queensland, QLD; David Woods, Consumer.

Page last updated:

The information on this webpage was adapted from Understanding Skin Cancer - A guide for people with cancer, their families and friends (2021 edition). This webpage was last updated in March 2022.

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