As we experience another hot Australian summer, it seems only timely to consider the last time you had your skin checked. The sooner skin cancer it is detected and treated, the better, and taking note of your skin and what is normal for you is the best way to do so.
Schedule a regular check up
Melanoma is a potentially lethal cancer that fortunately, in many cases, develops in places that are visible for us to see if we take the time to look. The Cancer Council recommends all adults should check their skin and moles every three months and, particularly those at a higher risk, should visit their doctor for an annual check.
To perform a thorough self-exam, you’ll need a bright light, a full-length and hand mirror and if you have access, a blow dryer. Closely exam yourself from top to toe. Use the blow dryer to inspect your scalp, you may need help with this from a friend or family member to ensure you don’t miss any places. Don’t forget to check areas such as in between your fingers and toes, your underarms, the soles of your feet and your genitals.
Know what to look for
The most important thing to look for when performing a self-check is change. You are looking for any new spots that may have appeared, or changes to existing marks and moles. You may notice the surface of your mole becoming scaly, rough, or ulcerated or it may begin to itch, tingle, bleed, or weep. All are important signs to get checked.
It’s helpful to consider the Cancer Council’s ABCDE melanoma detection guide when performing a self-check.
- A is for Asymmetry: Uneven spots that if a line was drawn through it’s middle, would not have mirroring sides
- B is for Border: Flag any spots with an irregular edge or that appears to be spreading
- C is for Colour: consistency is good, notice any blotchy spots with multiple colours like black, blue, red, white and/or grey
- D is for Diameter: Are your spots growing or getting bigger?
- E is for Evolving: Are your spots changing at all?
Consider your risk
There are skin types that are more sensitive to the harmful rays of the sun. You will notice you burn more quickly if that is the case and should consider self-examining or a booking doctor check-ups more frequently. Despite this, all skin types can be impacted by too much UV radiation, even though it may not present as sunburn. If you have naturally dark skin, with extra melanin providing natural UV protection, it is still important to keep an eye on your skin.
You may also be at a higher risk if you have a previous or family history of skin cancer, have lots of moles on your body, work outdoors, actively tan in the sun or solariums or you have a weakened immune system.
When in doubt, get checked. You can book in at a local skin clinic or ask your GP for a recommendation.