Other Skin Cancers

By far the most common skin cancers arise from keratinocytes, the epithelial cells of the outer skin layer. They occur as two main types: basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and collectively these are known as keratinocyte cancer (formerly ‘non-melanoma skin cancer’).

While BCCs are the most common skin cancers, they are also the least likely to spread to other parts of the body, though if untreated BCCs can invade tissues beneath the skin.

SCCs are less common but if untreated, invasive SCCs are likely to invade below the skin and spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body.

Keratinocyte cancers impose a very large burden on the Australian population. More than 400,000 are diagnosed and treated each year at a cost of more than $1 billion – the highest treatment cost of any cancer.1, 2 They also cause considerable morbidity, and mortality (SCC). Each year in Australia, BCCs and SCCs lead to 85,000 hospital admissions (more than twice the number of admissions for each of bowel, breast or prostate cancers), and almost 600 people die each year from SCC.


  • conducting the largest prospective study of skin cancer in Queensland, QSkin
  • predicting risk of keratinocyte cancer for people living in Queensland (or other sunny climates)
  • estimating the skin cancer burden in organ transplant recipients
  • understanding the genetic risk of keratinocyte cancer
  • understanding how to best prevent keratinocyte cancer
  • quantifying the economic burden of keratinocyte cancer on the Australian community
  • studying the biological mechanisms that influence skin cancer growth, such as the way sunlight (ultraviolet (UV) radiation) causes DNA damage and cell growth



  1. Fransen M, Karahalios A, Sharma N, English DR, Giles GG, Sinclair RD. Non-melanoma skin cancer in Australia. Med J Aust. 2012; 197: 565-8.
  2. Olsen CM, Williams PF, Whiteman DC. Turning the tide? Changes in treatment rates for keratinocyte cancers in Australia 2000 through 2011. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014; 71: 21-6.e1.