Regularly monitoring your skin means you're more likely to find skin cancers at the earliest stage when they can be successfully treated. Early detection of melanoma gives you a 99 per cent likelihood of being cured, while allowing a melanoma to grow unnoticed reduces your chances of survival to just 50 per cent.
As most skin cancers grow silently without symptoms, regular checks are vital for all people living in Australia. So how frequently should we visit our doctor for a "regular" skin cancer check?
It is recommended that all adults check their own skin every three months. It's important to completely examine your skin from the top of your scalp to the soles of your feet. You will need the help of a partner or friend to check areas you can't see, like the back of your ears. Learn how to perform a self-examination (and what to look for) here.
In addition to self-checks, you should also see a skin cancer doctor for a full-body skin examination at least once a year.
If you are at high-risk of skin cancer, your doctor will request that you have more frequent checks. This might be every three or six months, depending on your risk factors. You are at high risk of developing skin cancer if you have a personal or family history of the disease, have fair skin or light-coloured hair, spend a lot of time outdoors, or have been frequently sunburnt or tanned. Take this quick quiz to find out your skin cancer risk.
After your professional skin check, it is important to continue to monitor your skin at home on a regular basis, as skin cancers can develop in between visits to your doctor. In fact, 60 per cent of skin cancers aren't first noticed by a doctor, but by the patient! If you do notice any changing, new or stand-out spots, see your doctor straight away, even if you are not yet due for your annual skin check.