3 years ago

With Australia’s high UV levels and our love for the sun, it will come as no surprise that we are the skin cancer capital of the world. 

When it comes to skin cancers, early detection is vital. That’s why it’s so important to get checked regularly. The sooner a skin cancer is found, the better your chance of avoiding surgery, or the cancer spreading to other parts of the body, which can be fatal. 

What is a skin cancer check?

A skin cancer check is simply checking all areas of the body for any changes in your skin – particularly the face and scalp, neck and shoulders, the front and back of your arms (and armpits), the front and back of your hands and in between your fingers, your legs and between your toes. 

During a skin cancer check, the doctor will start by asking you questions about your health and any relevant medical history. The doctor will then examine your skin for anything unusual. 

To help your doctor, it’s a good idea to get to know your skin so that you become more aware of any changes. If your doctor is concerned about a freckle or mole, further testing may be needed, in which case a small skin biopsy will be taken and sent away for testing.  

What does skin cancer look like? 

There are three different types of skin cancers – melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma – and each varies in appearance. 

When it comes to detecting melanomas, there’s a rule of thumb called ‘ABCDE’:

  • Asymmetry: Check if your spot is lacking symmetry 
  • Border: If you can’t see a border or there’s a spreading edge 
  • Colour: If the colour is somewhat uneven with hints of black, blue, red, white and/or grey. 
  • Diameter: If your spot is getting bigger
  • Evolving: If your spot is changing or growing 

A basal cell carcinoma can appear more red or pearly in its appearance and may look lumpy and dry. A squamous cell carcinoma will appear as a thicker, red spot and it may bleed easily or crust. 

Just remember, skin cancers are far more likely to be seen than felt, so try to make a habit of checking yourself regularly at home for any new spots or changes to existing moles or freckles. 

Can moles become a skin cancer? 

Nearly everyone has moles. It’s estimated that by the age of 15, we will have 50 moles on our body. It’s important to know that normal moles will generally all look the same. If you notice a mole suddenly changes in appearance or you get a new mole you’re worried about, it’s always best to get it looked at.  The more moles you have, the higher the risk of skin cancer.  

When checking your skin, keep watch if any moles increase in size, if an outline of a mole becomes scratchy, if the surface becomes rough or scaly, if it starts to itch or if it bleeds. 

How often do I need a skin cancer check? 

How regularly you’re required to get a skin cancer check depends greatly on you, your skin type (and associated risk) and medical history. However, as a general rule, it is recommended that you do a skin check at home roughly every three months. You may need to enlist the help of a friend or partner to look at areas you can’t see. 

In addition to these self-checks, it’s recommended that you get a skin cancer check by a doctor at least once a year.

It’s a good idea to speak to your doctor about your risk factor and if you should be examined more regularly. 

Where can I find a skin cancer clinic? 

Beach Street Family Practice offers comprehensive and ethical skin cancer checks and treatment. If you’d like more information or to book an appointment with one of our doctors, click here

Medical photo created by wavebreakmedia_micro – www.freepik.com