Types of skin cancer

Skin cancer is categorised as melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). The three most common skin cancers are:

  • Melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer, causing over two thirds of total skin cancer deaths. Has a 97% cure rate if detected early and removed appropriately.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – easily treated if found early but can be fatal if left untreated.
  • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) – the most common and least dangerous skin cancer. BCC can be serious, requiring surgery if left untreated

Most of us have spots on our skin. That’s quite normal. Finding skin cancer as early as possible is the key to successful treatment. It is important to get to know your skin so that you can notice any changes. Speak to your mole doctor if you have a mole, freckle or spot that:

  • is new or changing
  • does not heal
  • that looks different from others around it
  • has changed in size, thickness, shape, colour or has started to bleed.

“Head to Toe” Skin checks

This is the main type of skin cancer screening required for the average person. This involves a systematic head to toe skin check using a dermatoscope to examine all appropriate skin lesions.

During the skin check your mole doctor will advice which lesions need to be photographed for on-going surveillance and which lesions need to be biopsied or removed. Generally photographs can be taken in the same appointment but another appointment will be required for minor surgery.

A typical appointment takes about 20mins and costs $125.

A free check for 1 – 2 moles


Skin cancer is the most common cancer in New Zealand and accounts for over 80% of all cancers diagnosed in New Zealand.
Skin cancer is largely preventable by having good sun protection. Over 90% of all skin cancer cases are attributed to excess sun exposure. We encourage all New Zealanders to be SunSmart and to ‘slip, slop, slap and wrap.’
It is important to detect skin cancer, especially melanoma, as soon as possible. Early detection generally gives the best chance of successfully treating cancer.

Total Body Photography or Body Mapping

This is a type of skin cancer screening where photos are taken of the whole body and moles of concern are photographed using a dermatoscope for on-going surveillance. This is useful for people who have over 50 significant moles as otherwise it can be a challenge for patients to know which moles are changing. These photos assist your mole doctor to detect which moles are changing and hence suspicious for cancer.

This takes approximately 1 hour and costs $250. You can have an electronic copy of your images or we can print out a hard copy for you on request ($20 per copy)

Important notes:

  • Skin checks will require partial undressing down to undergarments. We try and do this in a systematic manner to preserve modesty as much as possible. A chaperone is available and you are also welcome to bring along a friend or family member during any skin check. Please inform us at the time of booking if you require a chaperone.
  • Please remove all nail polish and make-up prior to your appointment as these can mask the appearance of skin cancers.
  • Please feel free to ask questions, clarify issues or point out lesions at any time during the skin checks. We want this to be an interactive process to help you look after your skin.

Removal of suspect spots/moles

  • Skin biopsy. This is sampling the skin to get pathological information to assist in diagnosis. Usually biopsies may be done in just a few minutes after the skin area has been numbed. Sometimes a stitch is placed which is usually removed in a week. Results can take a week to come back.
  • Excision of lesion. This is the standard method of removal for many lesions, including moles. The lesion edges are carefully marked out and a margin of healthy tissue around the growth is cut out with the growth so we can be confident it has all been removed. The edges can then be pulled together and stitched.

Cost: $250 – $360 depending on time required.