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HealthInfo Canterbury

Non-melanoma skin cancers

non-melanomaSeveral skin cancers are known as non-melanoma cancers. The most common of these are squamous cell carcinoma (or SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (or BCC).

These skin cancers are much more common in New Zealand than melanoma. They are especially common in fair-skinned people who have been exposed to a lot of sunshine through their lives.

Squamous cell carcinoma are scaly or crusty lumps that grow over weeks to months. They are found on sun-exposed places like your face, ears, hands and arms.

Basal cell carcinoma look like slow-growing lumps that can be skin-coloured, pink or pigmented (darker than your skin). They often bleed or become ulcerated (raw and don't heal).

The best way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid getting too much sun. Read Sun-smart behaviour for more information.

Self-skin checks are a good way to find spots that need to be checked by a doctor. Changes to look for include scaly or red patches, ulcers or sores that may bleed easily, itch or not heal.

If you're concerned about any skin changes you notice, get them checked by a GP.

If your doctor thinks it could be a skin cancer they may recommend taking a biopsy (taking off a small part of your skin lesion). Or they may recommend removing it by cutting it out (excision). They will then send the tissue that is removed to the laboratory to confirm what type of lesion it is. Read more about removal (excision) or biopsy of a skin lesion.

Treating non-melanoma skin cancers

There are several treatment options for non-melanoma skin cancers. The most common are removal (excision), cryotherapy (freezing) and topical therapy (creams). Read more detailed information at Health Navigator.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical directors, Dermatology and Plastic Surgery, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed May 2021.

See also:

Finding and preventing skin cancers

Page reference: 90098

Review key: HIMEL-15455