Skin Cancer

Many of us in Australia who enjoy the sun and outdoor living are acutely aware of the dangers of skin cancer. Yet we’re often unsure of the many different types of skin cancer, their causes and treatments. Rest assured Dr Buckland has the expertise and has undergone considerable training to deal with all forms of skin cancer.

Malignant Melanoma (Approximately 1% of all skin cancers)

As the most dangerous form of skin cancer, a Malignant Melanoma is most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds. If you have a concern about a Malignant Melanoma, consult with your GP or Dermatologist who can refer you to Dr Buckland if required.

These cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations (genetic defects) causing the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours. They originate in the pigment-producing melanocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis and often resemble moles with some even developing from existing moles.

Malignant Melanomas are caused mainly by intense, occasional UV exposure which has frequently led to sunburn, especially in those who are genetically predisposed to the disease. In Australia over 10,000 people are treated for Malignant Melanomas each year.

Treatment of Malignant Melanoma

Malignant Melanoma, a potentially aggressive form of skin cancer originating in melanocytes, requires prompt and comprehensive treatment. This information page aims to provide a detailed understanding of the diverse therapeutic approaches available for managing Malignant Melanoma.

1. Early Detection and Diagnosis:

Vigilant skin examinations and monitoring of moles or lesions. Biopsy is crucial for confirming the diagnosis and determining the cancer’s stage.

2. Surgical Interventions:

Wide Local Excision: 

  • Description: Surgical removal of the melanoma along with a margin of normal tissue.
  • Indication: Effective for localised tumours without evidence of spread.
  • Advantages: Aims for complete removal; minimises the risk of recurrence.

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy: 

  • Description: Removal and examination of the sentinel lymph node to assess if cancer has spread.
  • Indication: Is used in certain anatomical locations, and with certain tumour types, to further guide treatment decisions.
  • Advantages: Helps tailor treatment; aids in staging.

Lymph Node Dissection:

  • Description: Surgical removal of lymph nodes if cancer has spread to regional nodes.
  • Indication: Required in advanced cases with confirmed lymph node involvement.
  • Advantages: May prevent further spread; part of comprehensive treatment.

3. Adjuvant Therapies:


  • Description: Boosts the body’s immune system to target and destroy melanoma cells.
  • Indication: Adjuvant treatment for certain stages of melanoma.
  • Advantages: Prolong survival; effective in select cases.

 Targeted Therapy:

  • Description: Targets specific genetic mutations in melanoma cells. Indication: Applicable for melanomas with specific mutations.
  • Advantages: Precision-targeted; may be used when immunotherapy is not suitable.

4. Radiation Therapy:

  • Description: Utilises high-dose radiation to kill cancer cells or shrink tumours.
  • Indication: May be used after surgery or in cases where surgery is not feasible.
  • Advantages: Targets localised areas; reduces risk of recurrence.

5. Chemotherapy:

  • Description: Systemic treatment using drugs to kill cancer cells.
  • Indication: Reserved for advanced or metastatic melanoma.
  • Advantages: May shrink tumours and alleviate symptoms; limited role in certain cases.

6. Targeted Molecular Therapies:

  • Description: Targets specific molecular pathways involved in melanoma growth.
  • Indication: Used in advanced melanoma with specific genetic mutations.
  • Advantages: Precision-targeted; alternative when immunotherapy is not feasible.

7. Clinical Trials:

  • Participation in clinical trials may offer access to innovative therapies and contribute to advancing melanoma treatment.

The optimal treatment plan for Malignant Melanoma is individualised based on factors such as stage, location, patient health, and genetic characteristics. Early detection and intervention are critical for favourable outcomes. A multidisciplinary approach involving dermatologists, surgeons, oncologists, and other specialists ensures a comprehensive and tailored strategy for managing Malignant Melanoma.

Regular follow-up care is essential to monitor for recurrence and manage potential side effects of treatment.

Dr Garry Buckland is a highly skilled skin cancer plastic surgeon who provides the accurate diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers. For more information contact us today.