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Does the site of my skin cancer make a difference?

Posted by Dr James Burt on 12 June 2016

In most cases the part of your body on which a skin cancer is found does not effect the likelihood of having further troubles in the future with the skin cancer as long as it is properly treated.

There a few exceptions :

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Lips -  Squamous cell carcinomas of either the lip ( particularly lower lip)   does have an increased risk of travelling to the surrounding lymph nodes (glands). This can be up to 9% risk .You will therefore see your doctor take such a lesion very seriously.

If an SCC of the lip is identified early the vast majority are cured by routine measures but it is very important  to protect your lips ( particularly your lower lip ) from  UV radiation.  High SPF ( 30 +) lip balm should be worn by anyone spending significant time outdoors.  Outdoor workers have a greatly increased risk of SCC of the lower lip . Historically this group has been predominantly males but this is changing now and all outdoors workers need to routinely use high SPF sun protection including on their lips.  A hat is not sufficient and we are all aware  your lower lip often sits below the shade provided by the brim of your hat.

Basal Cell Carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinomas are a local problem but  are often diagnosed later in particular areas  and  are thought to tend to be more aggressive and therefore require more aggressive treatment when identified in those sites.

These sites are in the skin crease behind your ear, in the skin crease where the base of your nose meets your cheek and upper lip  and near the corner of your eye.


The vast majority of melanomas are found on peoples skin ( cutaneous melanoma) and the treatment generally follows the same  guidelines irrespective of the site on the body. The challenge can be that when a person presents with a melanoma on their ear , eyelid or nose it can be difficult to  achieve the  recommended  surgical margins and so a more complex reconstruction may be required.

Fortunately  melanoma of other areas of the body  other than skin are rare but they do occur  (lips, oral mucosa, vagina ,bowel).People who are found to have melanoma of one of these areas need highly specialized care and very personalized advice. They usually need to be treated by teams with multiple doctors who can be involved in their care.

Dr James BurtAuthor: Dr James Burt
About: Dr Jamie Burt was born and educated in Melbourne, attending the University of Melbourne and graduating with MBBS in 1998. He is a member of the Senior Medical Staff at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, and was Head of Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute until 2004. Known for his respectful, informative, and caring approach, Jamie has been caring for patients for over 15 years.
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Tags: Skin Cancer

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