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Dr John Chaplin – Auckland Head and Neck Specialist

Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer is a very common condition in New Zealand for two main reasons: The first is that a high percentage of the population are orginally immigrants from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and have fair skin and the second is the the intensity of the ultraviolet sunlight is among the highest in the world. This combination of factors ensures that we have a rate of 250 skin cancers per 100,000 population per year. The most common are basal cell cancers (BCC”s) followed by squamous cell cancers (SCC”s) and then less frequently but more deadly Melanoma”s and then rarely Merkel cell cancers.

The majority of these lesions present on the skin of the face and head and neck as these areas are exposed to the sun year round. They tend to be more common in people who have worked outdoors particularly if they have not used protective clothing or sunscreens. They are more common in older people as the sun exposure has a cumulative effect and they are very common in people who have immune deficiency.In this situation the skin cancers tend to be more aggressive also.

BCC is generally a localised disease that invades and destroys tissue locally but only rarely spreads to lymph nodes or to other organs of the body. It is frequently called a “Rodent Ulcer” as it gnaws away healthy tissue as it progresses.

SCC is a more aggressive from of cancer that has the potential to metastasise to lymph nodes and distant organs. It still does so less commonly (5%) than other cancers of the head and neck but it tends to be highly aggressive when it spreads.

Melanoma see Head and Neck Melanoma

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