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Know your skin and spot the signs of skin cancer

Posted by National Skin Cancer Centres on Aug 9, 2019 10:00:00 AM

Skin cancer is the most common cancer affecting Australians, with one person dying every six hours from melanoma. As skin cancer is easier to treat when found early, it is really important to get to know your own skin and check it regularly.

 

Changes you should look for on your skin

Get to know your skin day by day, and keep an eye out for:

  • new moles or moles that increase in size
  • changes in the outline of a mole
  • a mole that becomes rough, scaly or ulcerated
  • moles that itch, tingle, bleed or weep
  • a spot or freckle that becomes raised or develops a lump within it
  • a spot or freckle that changes colour or is varied in colour
  • or spots or freckles that look different from others on your skin.

If you have any concerns or notice changes to your skin, book a skin cancer check as soon as you can. If you don't have any concerns, you only need to have a full-body skin check once every year.

 

Where to check

You should check your whole body every couple of months, paying particular attention to these areas, which are common skin cancer hot-spots:

  • head and neck - including your scalp, ears, face and lips
  • upper body - front, back and sides
  • arms and hands - including your nail beds
  • buttocks and legs - including the soles of your feet and between your toes.

Don't forget to check the skin of your partner or loved ones, too. Skin cancer can develop even in areas that haven't been exposed to the sun, so ensure your check is thorough.

Monitoring your own skin is a great way to catch any changes early, but it doesn't replace a full-body skin check with a medical professional who will use special tools to see beneath the layers of skin and detect signs of cancer which may be invisible to the naked eye.

Did you know? Tattooed skin is still exposed to ultraviolet radiation. So if you have a tattoo, carefully check the skin under and around the tattoo. The colour pigments in tattoos can make it harder to detect skin cancer.

 

Know your skin type

Everyone can get skin cancer, regardless of skin colour. While skin cancer is less common is less common for people with darker skin, it often gets found at a later, more advanced stage.

There are six skin types, each with a different reaction to ultraviolet radiation.

Skin type Reaction to the sun What you need to know
Skin type 1 Always burns easily, never tans, extremely sun sensitive. You are at greatest risk of developing skin cancer so make sure you protect your skin. You should also check your skin regularly, be aware of any changes and see a doctor if you notice anything.
Skin type 2 Always burns easily, tans minimally, very sun sensitive. You are at greatest risk of developing skin cancer so make sure you protect your skin. You should also check your skin regularly, be aware of any changes and see a doctor if you notice anything.
Skin type 3 Sometimes burns, tans gradually to light brown, minimally sun sensitive. Even though your skin tans, this is still a sign of UV damage which can lead to skin cancer and your skin is vulnerable. Remember that a tan is not a healthy glow. Always protect your skin from the sun whenever the UV Index is 3 and above.
Skin type 4 Burns minimally, always tans to moderate brown, minimally sun sensitive. Even though your skin tans, this is still a sign of UV damage which can lead to skin cancer and your skin is vulnerable. Remember that a tan is not a healthy glow. Always protect your skin from the sun whenever the UV Index is 3 and above.
Skin type 5 Rarely burns, tans well, skin not sensitive to sun. Even though your skin tans, this is still a sign of UV damage which can lead to skin cancer and your skin is vulnerable. Remember that a tan is not a healthy glow. Always protect your skin from the sun whenever the UV Index is 3 and above.
Skin type 6 Never burns, deeply pigmented, skin not sensitive to sun. Your skin offers more protection against UV radiation than other skin types, but skin cancers can occur in people with very dark skin. Your eyes are vulnerable to damage from UV radiation so wear a hat and sunglasses and avoid excessive exposure.
Source: Cancer Institute NSW


The Melanoma Risk Predictor provides an estimation of your risk of developing melanoma in the next 3.5 years.

BOOK YOUR SKIN CHECK NOW

 

Topics: Detection, Risks