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Skin cancer can develop in anyone, no matter your skin type or age, so it is vital to use daily sun protection and get regular skin checks. Whilst we have to remember that there are some rare forms of skin cancer, the good news is that most skin cancers can be prevented or found early. Early detection is vital for the best treatment outcomes.
Freckles are harmless coloured spots of 1 to 10mm.
Moles are harmless coloured spots of 1 to 10mm. They are uniform in shape and colour, may be raised and have uneven boarders.
These wart-like spots sit on top of the skin and usually develop by the age of 60. The colour can be pale, orange or black. The size varies from a few millimetres to 2cm.
These odd-shaped moles are benign but might indicate a greater risk of developing melanoma. They have irregular borders, are usually 510mm wide and are uneven in colour with shades of brown and pink.
These non-cancerous spots are a warning sign that the skin has been damaged by the sun and that you may develop skin cancer, especially if the spots become lumpy or tender. Typical characteristics are red, scaly areas which can sting if scratched.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
This is the most common but least dangerous form of skin cancer which accounts for about 66% of all skin cancers. It usually appears as a lump or scaling area on areas often exposed to the sun, including the head, face, neck, shoulders and back. It often grows slowly over months or years but does not spread to other parts of the body. The small, round or attened spots are usually red, pale or pearly in colour and can become ulcerated like a sore, bleed and fail to heal. Some spots can look like a patch of eczema.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This skin cancer is not as dangerous as melanoma but if it is left untreated, it can spread to other body parts. It grows over several months and usually appears on areas most often exposed to the sun. Typical characteristics are thick, red and scaly spots.
This is the most dangerous form of skin cancer which can spread to other parts of the body. It can appear anywhere on the body and is usually a new spot or an existing spot which changed in colour, shape or size. It has irregular borders and more than one colour.
This aggressive type of melanoma will spread to other body parts if it is left untreated. It may be red, pink, black or brown in colour. It is usually a dome shaped, firm raised lump which grows in size quickly and may bleed or crust. Some flat melanoma may develop nodular areas later.
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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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