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San Cancer Services

Melanoma (Skin Cancer)

What is Melanoma (Skin Cancer)?

As one of Australia's most commonly diagnosed cancers, melanoma is a type of skin cancer which can be hard to detect due to presenting in many different ways. Melanoma is known to originate in melanocytes, the cells in our skin which produce colour or pigment. While melanin helps to protect the skin from harmful UV radiation, melanoma cancer results when the melanocytes undergo genetic mutation. From there, the cells may grow uncontrollably and eventually form malignant tumours.

Melanoma is particularly dangerous because it can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body including the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, and brain, if not detected and treated early. It often presents as an unusual mole or one which exhibits changes. Warning signs include a mole being asymmetrical, having irregular borders, varying in colour, being larger in diameter than a pencil eraser and changing in size or shape over time.

High risk factors for melanoma skin cancer include:

  • Family history
  • Having fair skin
  • A history of severe sunburn episodes
  • Prolonged exposure to UV
  • Multiple moles

Research has shown the best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect the skin from exposure to UV though the use of protective clothing and sunscreen.

Detecting Skin Cancer Early

As with many cancers, early detection of melanoma increases the effectiveness of proposed cancer treatments. Individuals are encouraged to look for early warning signs by undertaking self-checks, where they look for any new spots, freckles or moles, or look for changes in existing ones. Photographs can be useful to help monitor and compare changes over time.

Where a change has been noticed, or a person is at high risk, a physical examination by a doctor or skin cancer specialist is recommended. They will check all parts of the body for spots, moles or skin discolouration, in particular looking for those which have an irregular shape or are uneven. The size and colour are also considered, along with any changes over time.

If skin cancer is suspected, further analysis will be undertaken by a skin cancer specialist before commencing cancer treatment. This is generally in the form of a biopsy where a skin sample is removed and then tested for the presence of melanoma.

The San can provide skin cancer checks for patients through Icon Cancer Centre located on our North Shore hospital campus.

Treating Skin Cancers

For early-stage skin cancer, the main treatment is to surgically remove the cancerous tissue. If the risk of the melanoma spreading is high, other treatments such as the removal of lymph nodes may be considered in consultation with skin cancer surgery specialists.

For advanced melanoma, surgical treatment may be followed by targeted drug therapy if specific genetic mutations are involved or radiation therapy for situations where the melanoma is in a specific location such as bones. Immunotherapy is also used to stimulate the immune system to destroy cancerous cells. Chemotherapy is a less common treatment for melanoma, unless there has been spread to specific organs.

Sydney Skin Cancer Treatment Experts

Based on Sydney's North Shore, the San offers melanoma cancer patients comprehensive treatment plans tailored to meet their specific needs. Our dedicated team of medical oncologists and cancer surgery specialists prioritise best-practice methods combined with exceptional patient care. Drawing on the latest research and treatment methods, our medical oncologists will advise on the appropriate treatment with a clear, planned approach to treating skin cancer.


The San's world-class team of skin cancer specialists adopt a wholistic approach to the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer to optimise successful patient outcomes.

The San Advantage

  • Early detection and screening services
  • Optimised treatment plans
  • Highly skilled cancer surgery specialists
  • Wholistic treatment approach
  • Comprehensive support