Take Action on Skin Cancer

November 21, 2018

Over the next three years, over 40 people per day will be diagnosed with melanoma. How can you avoid becoming a statistic?

Skin Cancer Check

November 18-24, 2018 is National Skin Cancer Action Week. This is the perfect time to book in a skin check-up with your doctor, talk about your level of risk and ask for advice on early detection.

It is important to know your skin and what is normal for you. Skin cancers don’t generally cause pain and are usually noticed through visual changes.

Checking your skin

Developing a regular habit of checking your skin for new spots and changes to existing freckles or moles can help with early detection of changes.

When checking your skin, you should make sure you check your entire body as skin cancers can sometimes occur in parts of the body not always exposed to the sun. Use a mirror to check hard to see spots, like your back or scalp, or get a close friend or family member to check for you.

Some changes to look out for when checking your skin for signs of any cancer:

  • New moles
  • Moles that increases in size
  • An outline of a mole that becomes notched
  • A spot that changes colour from brown to black
  • A spot that becomes raised or develops a lump within it
  • The surface of a mole becoming rough, scaly or ulcerated
  • Moles that itch or tingle
  • Moles that bleed or weep
  • Spots which look different from others on your body

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three main types of skin cancer – melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and if left untreated can spread to other parts of the body. It often appears as a new spot or a change to an existing spot.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common, and less dangerous form of skin cancer. It is usually red, pale or pearly in colour and appears as a lump or dry, scaly area. This type of skin cancer grows slowly, generally in areas exposed to the sun.

Squamous cell carcinoma is a thickened, red, scaly spot that may bleed. This skin cancer is more likely to occur in people over 50 years of age and grows over some months.

The ABCDE Melanoma detection guide

The ABCDE Melanoma guide is useful when checking your skin specifically for Melanomas.

A is for Asymmetry – look for spots that lack symmetry

B is for Border – A spot with a spreading or irregular edge

C is for Colour – Blotchy spots containing colours such as black, blue, red, white and/or grey

D is for Diameter – Look for spots that are getting bigger

E is for Evolving – Spots that are changing or growing

Prevention is better than cure

The Cancer Council recommends using the five forms of sun protection whenever the UV index is three or above:

• slip on sun-protective clothing

• slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen

• slap on a broad-brimmed hat

• seek shade

• slide on sunglasses

The UV index lets you know when the levels of UV are at their highest and when you need to be most aware of using sun protection. Usually, UV levels are most intense in the middle of the day.

For more information on National Skin Cancer Action Week, visit the Cancer Council.

As always, should you have any concerns, please do speak to your health care professional or doctor.