Summer is coming and with it, more potential exposure to the sun's harmful rays. While you should be having annual skin checks with a doctor, it's also a good idea to perform self-checks regularly. Follow these top tips.
Every year in Australia skin cancers account for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers, yet when detected early, are often treated successfully.
Dermatologist Dr Anina Fitzgibbon, from the Dermatology Institute of Victoria, says that regular self-checks should be paired with an annual yearly skin check with a doctor or dermatologist.
“A skin check is a ‘moment in time’ analysis and the skin’s ability to change quickly means that sometimes what wasn’t there three weeks ago, suddenly is.
“When self-checking, look for two things: the development of any new spots and any changes to existing spots. The following tips are red flags and if found, should be bought to the attention of your doctor or dermatologist as soon as possible” said Dr Fitzgibbon.
1. An existing spot has grown larger.
2. The edges of a spot look irregular, meaning they dip in and out rather than forming a circle.
3. The spot has variable colours. There is a common misconception that really dark spots are dangerous, however it is often those that show a range of colours that prove to be problematic such as a mixture of different browns, black, blue, red, pink, white or light grey.
4. The spot is itchy or the spot bleeds when scratched or bumped.
5. You have a pimple like lesion, sore or ulcer, which won’t heal within a month.
Below are simple steps you can follow to keep your skin in check:
1. Check every three months – Dr Fitzgibbon recommends checking your skin with every change in season. “All it takes is 15 minutes, four times a year. We’ve just come into to Spring, so now is a good time” says Dr Dr Fitzgibbon.
2. Check mate – some of the areas of the body most prone to skin cancer such as the scalp, top of the ears or back can be difficult to self-examine. If you’ve got someone you feel comfortable with, ask them to check these areas for you.
3. Take a selfie – Have a ruler and a camera to measure and record any moles you find. When you see something every day, it can be hard to notice gradual changes. The easiest way to do this is to hold the ruler next to the mole and take a photo, that way if it grows, or changes shape or colour, you have a comparison.
4. Top to toe – make sure you look at your entire body including the soles of your feet as skin cancer can occasionally occur in areas where we don’t get sun exposure.
5. Slip, slop, slap: between 95 and 99% of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun.
Here is a video showing you the steps too -
For more information, go to www.div.net.au
About Dr Anina Fitzgibbon
Dr Fitzgibbon from the Dermatology Institute of Victoria specialises in eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea and mole screening, and has completed a PhD on the effects of smoking on the skin. She is a consultant dermatologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and in the past, has worked for the Victorian Melanoma Service at the Alfred Hospital.