The Australian climate is unfortunately known for its harsh sun and high UV (ultra-violet rays), which means it’s so important for people to check their own skin regularly for skin cancer and know how to prevent it.
There is also a widely held belief that a tan looks healthy. There is no such thing as a healthy tan though. It is a sign your skin has been exposed to UV radiation at a level that has damaged your skin, and that alone, therefore, increases your risk of skin cancer.
As the weather starts to really heat up in South East Queensland, it’s a timely reminder for us to remember the slip, slop, slap message and remember to check our skin for any changes.
Here are a few tips.
Self-examination skin checks
Skin cancers are often found by people as they check their own skin, or when a loved one notices something has changed. To detect skin cancer early, examine yourself regularly and have full checks by a doctor or skin cancer specialist. To perform a skin check, here is a guide:
- Use a full-length mirror and a hand mirror so that you can see the back of your body too.
- Undress completely in good light.
- Check everywhere, remembering that skin cancers can occur between fingers and toes, under nails, on the soles of your feet, in the palms of your hands and on your scalp.
- If possible, get a partner, family member or friend to help you check difficult areas like your scalp and back.
Skin cancer often appears as:
- A new and unusual-looking spot
- An existing spot that has changed in size, colour, or shape.
- It’s useful to remember the ABCDE rule when you check. Look out for:
- A: asymmetry (spots that aren’t symmetrical)
- B: border (spots with uneven borders)
- C: colour (spots with unusual or uneven colour)
- D: diameter (spots larger than 7mm)
- E: evolving (spots that are changing or growing)
If you are concerned about any spot, mole, or lesion on your skin, and it’s between your usual screening appointments make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible to get it checked.
Skin cancer prevention
According to the Cancer Council, Australia still has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, including melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. Currently two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70 every year, and around 2000 Australians die from this disease. There have been improvements in melanoma rates amongst Australians under the age of 40, however skin cancer is still the most common cancer and one of the most preventable.
People with fairer skin, a family history or personal history of skin cancer are at an increased risk of skin cancer.
To reduce skin cancer risk, use all five forms of sun protection when UV levels are 3 or higher. The Cancer Council recommends:
- Slip on sun protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
- Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30 (or higher) sunscreen. Apply 20 minutes before going outdoors and every two hours afterwards.
- Slap on a hat – broad brim or legionnaire style to protect your face, head, neck, and ears.
- Seek shade.
- Slide on sunglasses – make sure they meet Australian Standards.
- To learn more about preventing skin cancer, including information on how to apply sunscreen properly and UV ratings, see the Cancer Council information here.
How we can help
GPs at Family Doctors Plus are experienced in skin cancer diagnosis and treatment. We have a dedicated skin cancer treatment space with state-of-the-art equipment for excisions. You can book a standard appointment with us to have your skin checked.
- Cancer Council
- SunSmart App