Stay ahead of melanoma through self-examination

Dec 28, 2021
Health experts point to the importance of regular check ups for skin cancer. Source: Getty Images.

More than 130,000 Australians are diagnosed with skin cancer each year with two in three Aussies being diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before they turn 70, according to Cancer Council Australia.

With the rates of melanoma so worryingly high in our sunburnt country, it’s crucial to stay vigilant for any irregularities in our skins. But it can often be difficult to determine what is potentially skin cancer or just an everyday freckle.

With that in mind, Starts at 60 spoke to the experts to determine what to look out for when checking your skin and the importance of regular self-checking.

Queensland Cancer Council‘s Cancer Support and Information General Manager, Gemma Lock, said that when it comes to preventing skin cancer the public should be “checking their skin regularly and becoming familiar with what is normal for them”.

“Skin cancers rarely hurt and are more frequently seen than felt. Things to look out for include, new moles, freckles or lumps, or any changes to existing spots including changes in size, shape or colour as well as any spots with sores that don’t heal over 4-6 weeks,” she said.

Lock urges people to “speak to their GP as soon as possible” if they find an irregularity on their skin but not to panic if they notice something unusual.

“Although we may notice one or more skin changes, it does not necessarily mean that we have skin cancer. However, it is important that a visit to the GP is made to have them investigated further. Your GP can discuss skin cancer risk and advise on the need for medical checks or self-examination,” she said.

“It can be difficult to know whether something on your skin is a harmless mole or normal sun damage, or a sign of cancer. When in doubt, speak to your GP.”

Lock stresses how “very important” early detection is for patient outcomes.

“The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better your chance of avoiding surgery or, in the case of a serious melanoma or other skin cancer,” she said.

According to new research released by TAL, Australia’s leading life insurer, in the 2021 TAL SpotChecker Australian Skin Safety Report, 34% of Australians don’t really think about getting or needing a professional skin check.

TAL General Manager of Health Services, Dr Priya Chagan, also highlights the importance of self-checking and professional skin checks as “one of the greatest preventative measures against skin cancer”.

“Skin cancer does not discriminate and can develop over time whether you spend little or no time in the sun. Covid-19 exacerbated the existing concern of people not self-checking or getting professional skin checks regularly enough, so we are calling on all Australians to re-engage with skin safety this summer to ensure that they identify any unusual spots early and maximise the likelihood of successful treatment.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

Do you regularly self check or get professional checks for skin cancer? Do you know what to look out for?

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