It is a good idea to perform a self skin check every 3 months. This includes checking (or asking a family member or friend to check) difficult to see areas such as your scalp, behind your ears, back and the rear of your legs. While skin cancers are related to sun exposure and subsequent skin damage, they can occur anywhere on the body surface.
THE ABCDE OF SKIN CANCER:
- Asymmetry - most melanomas are asymmetrical in pattern and colour
Melanoma - Breslow thickness 0.9 mm
- Border - irregular border is typical (but not essential) in melanoma
Melanoma in situ
- Colour - more than 2 colours in a mole is concerning
Melanoma - Breslow thickness 1.3 mm
- Diametre - most melanomas are greater than 5 mm in diametre (but they can be smaller)
- Elevation - beware the fast growing elevated lesion... it might be a nodular melanoma which is the most deadly form.
RISK FACTORS FOR SKIN CANCER:
- Fair skin
- Lots of moles (particularly more than 200) or presence of dysplastic (abnormal) moles which are an indication of increased risk of melanoma.
- Previous skin cancer of ANY type including basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
- Sunburn - particularly during childhood or adolescence.
- Family History - there is a significant genetic risk associated with melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.
- UV exposure - especially from occupational exposure (e.g. tradies) or recreational (e.g. water sports).
- Age - risk increases with age.
- Gender - males are at increased risk.
SUN PROTECTION IS IMPORTANT:
- Seek shelter from the sun
- Reapply suncream frequently (especially if in the water of sweating vigorously).
- Cover up with protective clothing and a broad brimmed hat.
- Use high SPF Broad Spectrum suncream which blocks both UVA and UVB from damaging your skin.
- Avoid the sun between the hours of 11 am and 3 pm.
Melanoma Institute of Australia: www.melanoma.org.au
Australian Cancer Council: www.cancer.org.au
Melanoma Patients Australia: www.melanomapatients.org