Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells

An extremely common cancer in my practice.

South Africa has the second highest incidence of cancer behind Australia**.

Skin cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in the world and frighteningly South Africa has the second highest incidence of cancer behind Australia. Roughly 500 000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year. **

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours.

There are many types of skin cancer, all of which need to be removed but not all of which are deadly. The most common include:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma

Skin cancer is most often diagnosed on sun exposed skin i.e. face, arms, hands and neck

Basal Cell Cancer

Skin cancer that forms in the deep epidermis (skin) is called basal cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common of the skin cancers. This type of skin cancer is not often fatal but it does indicate that your skin has been exposed to the sun for extended periods.

Basal cell carcinoma is slow growing and does not often spread beyond its original site. That said if left untreated it could cause deep tissue and bone damage**.

Squamous Cell Cancer

Skin cancer that forms in squamous cells (flat cells that form the surface of the skin) is called squamous cell carcinoma.

Similar to basal cell carcinoma this type of skin cancer is not fatal, but the mere presence could mean more sinister cancers are lurking and you should get checked.

Squamous cell carcinoma are the second most reported cases of skin cancer and often appear on the:

  • Lips
  • Ears
  • Face

Squamous cell carcinoma can become life threatening if left untreated**.


Melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer**. If caught early melanoma cancer can often be cured*, but left untreated this cancer spreads and can be fatal. Melanoma is a malignant skin cancer that appears in the cells that make the brown colour in your skin, hair and eyes.

It is concentrated in moles that may be:

  • Brown,
  • Black,
  • Flesh-toned or other shades.

Getting your moles and sunspots checked regularly or removed is imperative.

Treatment for a melanoma is serious, this is why it is better to avoid it if possible:
When there is an in situ melanoma, Dr Chris Snijman excises 0.5-1cm of the normal skin surrounding the tumour and takes off the skin layers down to the fat.

As this is a dangerous skin cancer killer, we need to make sure we leave nothing behind.
The ABCDE of Melanoma checks:

A. Asymmetry – if the shape of your mole is asymmetrical then get checked
B. Border – melanomas tend to have very uneven borders
C. Colour – melanomas appear to have multiple colours in a single mole
D. Diameter – melanomas tend to have a larger diameter than a pencil eraser
E. Evolving – any change in shape, size, projection should be a warning sign

Undergoing Skin Cancer treatment with Dr Chris Snijman is as simple as making an appointment. Call his Morningside rooms now on 011 884 9957.

* Disclaimer
Please refer to my Disclaimer for more information.

** View the research at The Cancer Association of South Africa.