12 January 2009

The three types of skin cancer

Exposure to sunlight can increase your risk of developing one or more of the three types of skin cancer.


Exposure to sunlight can increase your risk of developing one or more of the three types of skin cancer. The types include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma

  • This is the most prevalent type of skin cancer.
  • It does not usually spread to other organs or parts of the body.
  • The chance of recovery after an early diagnosis is 95 percent.

The heart transplant pioneer Chris Barnard had extensive nose and facial reconstruction after late diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • Squamous cell carcinoma is easy to cure, provided it is diagnosed at an early stage.
  • If not diagnosed early, it tends to spread to the lymphatic system and other tissue cells, requiring the removal of lymph glands.


  • About 5 – 10 percent of all skin cancers are melanoma.
  • It is a very aggressive type of cancer.
  • It can spread to other tissue cells at an early stage.
  • The chances of recovery depend on how deeply the lesion has penetrated the skin. In cases where the penetration is less than 0,75mm, the chance of recovery is about 100 percent. With a lesion deeper than 4mm the chance of surviving ten years or longer is less than 15 percent.


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Skin expert

Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch.

She currently runs a dermatology practice in Cape Town’s northern suburbs and her specialities include eczema, childhood skin conditions and acne.

She also has a passion for enhancing natural beauty through cosmetic procedures.

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