Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, and it’s also one of the most preventable. By catching it early, you can increase your chances of beating it.
In Australia, skin cancer is the most common cancer. There are two main types of skin cancer – non-melanoma and melanoma.
Non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC) are much more common than melanomas. In Australia, there are over 400,000 new cases of NMSC diagnosed each year. Melanoma is less common, but more serious. There are over 16,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed each year in Australia.
Regular skin checks can help to detect skin cancer early. Skin cancer can often be found early by looking for changes in the skin. Checking your skin regularly means you’re more likely to find changes early.
When checking your skin, you should look for anything that is new or has changed. This includes:
• new moles or spots
• changes in the size, shape or colour of existing moles or spots
• changes in the way a mole or spot looks – for example, if it’s become raised or lumpy
• bleeding from a mole or spot
• crusting or scabbing on a mole or spot
• itching or pain in a mole or spot
1. Look at your skin in a well-lit room using a hand-held mirror.
2. Examine your skin from head-to-toe, including your scalp, neck, palms and soles of your feet.
3. Use a full-length mirror to check the back of your body, including your buttocks and back of your legs.
4. Ask someone you trust to help you check the parts of your body that you can’t see.
5. If you find anything unusual, make an appointment to see your doctor.
If you notice any changes in your skin, it’s important to see a doctor. They can assess the changes and decide if further investigation is needed.
It’s also important to see a doctor if you have any of the following risk factors for skin cancer:
• a history of skin cancer
• a family history of skin cancer
• fair skin that burns easily and doesn’t tan
• lots of moles or freckles
• a history of sunburn
• working or spending time in the sun
At your appointment, the doctor will ask about your medical history and do a physical examination of your skin using a dermatoscope. The doctor will take photos of any moles or spots that may be of significance in the future. If they find anything of concern, they may recommend further tests, such as a skin biopsy.
A skin biopsy involves taking a small sample of tissue from the suspicious area of skin. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. This can help to confirm whether the area of skin is cancerous.
If skin cancer is found, treatment will be recommended. The type of treatment will depend on the type and stage of skin cancer. Treatment options may include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
The importance of regular skin checks cannot be understated. Skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and catching it early can make all the difference. By knowing what to look for and conducting regular checks, you can help to keep yourself safe from this disease.