What Do You Need To Know About Skin Cancer?
Are Moles Dangerous?
Moles are extremely common and usually appear in childhood and adolescence. Moles can be raised or flat, round or oval, and can range in colour from skin tone to black.
Although most moles are harmless, it’s important to watch for changes which may indicate abnormal growth.
What Is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer occurs when there is the growth of abnormal cells in the top layer of your skin.
Ultraviolet (UV) exposure is by far the most important reason this occurs. The risk of UV damage depends on the severity of burns and the amount of exposure over time.
Other risk factors for skin cancer include:
- A previously diagnosed skin cancer
- Your skin type
- A large number of moles
- A family history of skin cancer
- Previous solarium and sunbed use
What Are The Common Types Of Skin Cancer?
It is well known that Australia has the highest melanoma rates in the world. While melanomas can be one of the most dangerous skin cancers, the vast majority of skin cancers are non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC) such as Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinomas (Cancers). These skin cancers can look quite different to our regular moles. Our skin cancer doctors are here to help look for all suspicious skin marks and moles.
Remember, skin cancers can be successfully treated if detected early.
What’s My Skin Type And Why Does This Matter?
Skin types are categorized according to The Fitzpatrick Classification. You can find more information about your skin type on Dermnet.
Skin types I and II are more sensitive to UV radiation and can burn more quickly. Although skin cancers predominantly occur in skin types I and II, anyone is still at risk of developing skin cancer.
How Else Can I Determine My Risk Of Melanoma?
The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute has developed a melanoma risk predictor, accessible here. It provides an indication of your risk of developing melanoma in the next 3.5 years. Whilst this may be a useful tool, you should still consult a Skin Cancer Doctor for advice and examination.
Why Is Self-Examination Important?
Being self-aware of changes in the appearance of freckles or moles is your first line of defense against skin cancer. If you do notice a change, particularly within a short time, it’s important to get this checked.
Possible changes could be spots that become tender, weepy, scaly or that are growing bigger in size or changing colour. Most moles do very slowly change over years but if one is changing over a few weeks to months, this should be a reason to get it checked.
Make sure you check your whole body where possible, including between your fingers, toes, ears, exposed scalp, and the soles of your feet. If you notice something out of the ordinary, get expert advice.
You can find tips for checking for signs of skin cancer, including the ABCDE melanoma detection guide, on the Cancer Council website.
Why Do You Need A Skin Check?
Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they turn 70 years. For this reason, it’s extremely important to be vigilant about your skin and to have regular check-ups. The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better the outlook.
At UV Skin Cancer Clinic, we aim to be proactive rather than reactive about your health. Skin checks provide an opportunity to detect early skin cancers and educate you about your risk for skin cancer. Your doctor will provide a detailed examination, advise measures you should take to protect your skin and, answer any other questions you have.
How Often Do You Need A Skin Check?
How frequently you need a skin check depends on your risk factors and level of solar damage already present and family history of skin cancer. As such, this frequency is based on your own individual risk. Your UV Skin Cancer Doctor will advise you on how frequently you need to have a skin check
At What Age Do You Need A Skin Check?
It all depends on your skin type, previous sun exposure, and other risk factors. Generally speaking, if you haven’t had a skin check by the time you reach your 30s, it’s a good idea to have one.
The UV Skin Cancer Clinic sees predominantly patients in the 50+ age group when people start seeing the effects of sun damage such as brown marks or scaly spots
How Do I Prepare For The Skin Check Appointment?
Please come au naturel! That means no make-up, powders, face creams, sunscreen, nail polish, fake tan, or body lotions.
Keep in mind you will need to undress to your undergarments during the examination. We understand that this may be uncomfortable however consideration for modesty will always be provided during the examination. If you have a preference to see a female doctor, please let us know when booking.
Why Choose An In-Person Skin Check?
Other skin cancer clinics offer ways of having your mole checked without leaving home. While artificial intelligence technology is rapidly developing, we cannot rely upon images alone.
An in-person skin check provides an opportunity to physically assess any spots of concern as well as advise you immediately of any management needed.
What Happens During A Skin Examination?
At your initial 30-minute appointment, your Skin Cancer Doctor will ask about your family history, previous and type of sun exposure including sunburns. They will also ask you if you have any concerns about specific moles.
At UV Skin Cancer Clinic, a detailed, full-body skin examination from head to toe with a dermatoscope (magnification tool) and total body photography FotoFinder technology will be performed. These captured images allow us to document the entire skin over time and serially monitor for changes and hence detect skin cancers early.
What If The Doctor Finds Something Suspicious?
If your doctor is concerned about a particular mole or lesion, they may suggest a biopsy or removal. This can be performed on-site at our clinic and all samples are sent away for testing. For more details about accessing test results, please click here.
Your doctor will explain the cost, results processing time, and anticipated downtime (if any) to you as needed.
Why Choose UV Skin Cancer Clinic?
Our service aims to provide complete, integrated and person-centred care under one roof – so you can see your GP, get a skin check, have a procedure, and receive all your care at one location.
Our Skin Cancer Doctors have undertaken specialised training in skin cancer diagnosis and treatment with accreditations from various bodies including the Skin Cancer College Australasia. Both male and female doctors are also available should you have a preference.
How Can I Protect My Skin From Damaging UV Rays?
Sunshine is important to human health for a variety of reasons, including vitamin D for bone strengthening and our mental health. However, the Skin Cancer Council recommends taking the following precautions when the UV level is 3 or above:
- Slip on some sun-protective clothing – that covers as much of your body as possible.
- Slop on broad-spectrum, water-resistant SPF30 sunscreen. Apply it 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterward. Sunscreen should never be used to extend the time you spend in the sun.
- Slap on a hat – that protects your face, head, neck, and ears.
- Slide on some sunglasses that meet Australian standards.
Be extra cautious in the middle of the day when UV levels are most intense.
You can use the free Cancer Council SunSmart App to track current UV levels and take precautions as required.
Dermatologists Or Skin Cancer Doctors – Who To See?
Dermatologists are doctors who specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of all things relating to the skin. That could include acne, psoriasis, eczema, infections, and skin cancer. As a specialist, their fees may be much more expensive than a Skin Cancer Doctor and there may be longer wait times to book in.
In Australia, the majority of skin cancer screening and management are performed by General Practitioners. At UV Skin Cancer Clinic, our Skin Cancer Doctors are GPs who have undertaken additional training as part of a sub-specialty in skin cancer. Our aim is to provide integrated and person-centered care under one roof – so you can see your GP, get a skin check, have a procedure, and get all your care at the one location.