When providing onsite work skin checks around Perth and WA, we are often asked about spots and skin cancers that are not melanoma. Workplaces that have workers exposed to the sun as part of their work, have a Duty of Care under the OSH Regs 1996 to ensure they are taking precautions to manage their sun exposure and risk of skin cancer.
Aside from identifying a melanoma, this is an overview of what else might be found during your work skin checks.
Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers
Not all Skin Cancers are Melanoma. The vast majority of Skin Cancers diagnosed in Australia are Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers. The two most common in Australia are Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC’s) and Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCC’s). These non-melanoma skin cancers account for approximately 98% of skin cancers diagnosed in Australia, while Melanoma only accounts 1-2% of skin cancers diagnosed. Sun exposure is the cause of 99% of non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia.
Most non-Skin Cancers have a good prognosis however if left too long without treatment may cause some complications.
Basal Cell Carcinomas
Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC’s) account for approximately 66% of all non- melanoma skin cancers diagnosed in Australia. They are considered the ‘slowest growing’ of all the skin cancers rarely extending past the local surrounding tissue. These occur most commonly on areas exposed to the sun ie. head, face, neck and arms. The back and chest are also some common sites of BCC occurrence.
Its appearance may vary; some are raised bumps with a smooth, pearly or waxy appearance whilst others appear as an ulcerative sore type lesion that does not heal. Some can have ‘rolled edges’ or they can also appear quite firm and flat like a scar. A small percentage of BCC’s can also be pigmented (coloured) in appearance.
Squamous Cell Carcinomas
Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCC’s) account for roughly 33% of all non- melanoma skin cancers diagnosed in Australia. Squamous cell carcinomas grow faster than BCC’s and have the potential to spread to lymph nodes or distant parts of the body if left too long untreated. The level of tissue damage can be quite devastating so prompt treatment is recommended.
They are more commonly found on the head, neck, hands, forearms or lower legs and appear as a thickened, red scaly bump or an ulcerative lesion that does not heal.
Although non-melanoma skin cancers aren’t considered as dangerous as Melanomas they still need to be treated promptly to decrease the amount of surrounding tissue damage.
Key features to look for when you are self examining your skin are:
- Is the lesion ulcerative and non-healing?
- Has it been there longer than 6 weeks?
- Does it bleed?
- Is it sensitive, itchy or painful for no reason?
Be vigilant and see your GP immediately if you are concerned about any of your spots or lesions.
Work Health Professionals is happy to discuss how may be able to support your sun safety policy. Onsite work skin checks help give you the employer and your employees peace of mind.
By Stephanie Hudson RN