Anyone can develop skin cancer, but factors that put you at a higher risk include your skin type, having moles and freckles, sun exposure and solarium use. Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Two in three Australians will develop some form of skin cancer before they reach the age of 70, and there are over 1,800 skin cancer related deaths each year. However, skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers.
What is Skin Cancer?
There are three major types of skin cancer; the most dangerous and widely known is Melanoma. Skin cells in the top layer of skin produce a pigment called melanin that gives skin its natural colour. When skin is exposed to UV radiation, more melanin is produced, causing the skin to darken. This is what we call a ‘tan’. A tan is a sign of the skin getting UV radiation damage, or skin cells in trauma. Tanning is the biggest contribution to developing skin cancer, and sunburn can lay the groundwork for skin cancer developing later in life. You can also have a higher change of developing skin cancer if it is hereditary.
How to prevent Skin Cancer?
There is not much you can do about hereditary risk factors, but you can take steps to reduce your risk of skin cancer from UV radiation and sun exposure by using a combination of the five sun protection measures:
- Slip on sun protective clothing
- Slop on SPF 30+ sunscreen and reapply every two hours
- Slap on a hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears
- Seek shade
- Slide on sunglasses
What are the symptoms of Skin Cancer?
The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better your chance of avoiding surgery or, in the case of a serious melanoma or other skin cancer, potential disfigurement or even death. It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and for advice on early detection. It’s important to get to know your skin and what is normal for you, so that you notice any changes. Skin cancers rarely hurt and are much more frequently seen than felt. Develop a regular habit of checking your skin for new spots and changes to existing freckles or moles. Changes to look out for include:
- New moles
- Moles that increase in size
- A spot that changes colour
- A spot that becomes raised or develops a lump
- Moles that itch or tingle
- Moles that bleed or weep
Mingara Medical offers a wide range of specialised skin cancer medicine as well as skin cancer checks. Our doctors are highly trained in skin cancer detection and diagnosis, as well as more complex procedures including skin grafts and local flaps. Give us a call on (02) 4302 3333 to book an appointment to discuss your options.
Information from the Better Health Channel and Cancer Council Australia.