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Over 2,000 people die from skin cancer in Australia each year. Skin cancer can affect
anyone, occur anywhere on the body, and often shows no symptoms until at an
advanced stage. Most skin cancers can be successfully treated if detected early.
Self-exams and skin checks with your doctor will ensure timely diagnosis and treatment.
Source: Ultabeauty. (2015, June 1.) La Roche Posay Suncare - Check Your Beauty Spots! | Ulta Beauty.
The first symptom of a melanoma is usually the appearance of a new spot or a change in an existing freckle or mole, which evolves in size, shape or colour over several weeks or months. The guidelines below are a useful tool for monitoring your own skin to detect the early signs of skin cancer. However, the best way to identify a melanoma is to get a skin check from a professional. Early detection increases your chances of survival to 98 percent.
Do the two halves of the lesion match if you draw a line through the middle?
Are the borders smooth and even or do they have notched and
Does the lesion have one colour or a variety of colours?
Is the lesion smaller or larger than a pencil eraser which is
Are there any changes in size, shape, colour, elevation or any other new
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Are you aged 40 or over?
Over 90 percent of people diagnosed with melanoma are older than 40. However, skin cancer effects people of all ages. In fact, melanoma is the most common cancer in Australians aged 15 to 39. It is estimated that 2,500 Australians aged 25-49 will be diagnosed with the disease this year.
Have you had multiple sunburns that resulted in blistering or peeling?
If you have had multiple sunburns that blistered or peeled, your risk of developing skin cancer doubles. Men are at a greater risk of getting the disease, with one in 14 men and one in 24 women expected to develop melanoma sometime in their life.
Do you have pale skin, fair hair or blue eyes?
Due to lack of skin pigmentation, Caucasian populations are at high risk of getting skin cancer. If you have fair skin, blue eyes, or light or red hair, you are in the highest risk group. However, skin cancer effects people of all ethnicities, no matter their skin colour.
Do you have a large number of freckles or moles on your body?
You have an increased risk of melanoma if there are multiple freckles or moles on your skin. It is important to get your skin checked frequently by your doctor, since early detection offers the best survival rate. Five Australians die every day from melanoma.
Has anyone in your family had melanoma?
While most skin cancers result from sun exposure, some melanomas develop due to an inherited gene. Your risk may be higher if someone in your family has had melanoma.
Have you had a melanoma or another type of skin cancer before?
You are at higher risk of developing further skin cancers if you have had one previously. A history of skin cancer indicates that your skin might be prone to the disease, usually from excessive sun damage or due to a genetic disposition.
Do you have any skin spots that look different to the others?
A mole could be a melanoma if it is changing in size, shape or colour, or looks different to the others on your body. It is important to become familiar with your own skin and notice any sores that won’t heal, small red or white lumps, or new freckles that appear or change over weeks or months.
Do you work outdoors or frequently enjoy outdoor activities?
If you work outdoors, or are often outside, you are exposed to the sun’s UV light, which permanently damages your skin cells and causes irreversible harm that can lead to skin cancer. UV light is responsible for 90 percent of all skin cancers. In Australia, one in eight adults and one in five teenagers are sunburnt on an average summer weekend.
Do you bleed easily, even with very little abrasion?
A sign of skin cancer is easy or persisting bleeding, even from small abrasions on your body. For example, a small scratch on your skin might bleed when you towel off after a shower, or you might have lingering bleeding from your face after shaving.
Have you used a solarium bed to tan your skin?
Studies have shown that using a solarium before the age of 35 increases your risk of melanoma by 59 percent, because the UV radiation emitted from solariums is six times stronger than the midday sun.
However, it is important to regularly self-assess your skin and get thorough head-to-toe skin checks by a skilled physician at least once a year. Skin cancer can affect anyone of any skin type and can occur anywhere on the body, often showing no symptoms until an advanced stage.
Answering ‘yes’ to at least one question means you are part of the high-risk group and it is possible that you will develop skin cancer in your life time. It is recommended that you see your doctor for regular check-ups at least once a year. The key to successful skin cancer treatment is early detection.
A head-to-toe skin check with a skilled doctor is the only way to know your skin is healthy. For your peace of mind continue to get regular check-ups at least once a year. Ninety-nine percent of all skin cancers are curable if found early.
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