Is that getting bigger?
Was that there before?
We’ve lived with our bodies our entire lives, so you would think we’d be pretty familiar with them. Unfortunately, though, questions like those above are pretty common. The fact is, we just aren’t good at self-diagnosing. And some spots are in a place too difficult for us to get a good look at.
Read on for some interesting advice and facts on skin cancer and skin checks and, please, if you’re concerned about something on your skin, or you simply haven’t had a doctor look you over in a while, book in now with Yarra Medical. Our doctors are trained to detect abnormal growth in moles and other skin spots, and a skin check is quick, pain-free and could provide you with peace of mind. Don’t hesitate.
Check out our fees on our Skin Clinic page.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. By abnormal, we mean cells that have been damaged by UV (ultraviolet) radiation. There are three main types of skin cancer:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma – Most common, least dangerous. Usually found on the head and neck, and appear red and raised. They can bleed if knocked, and become ulcerated as they grow.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma – Grows over weeks or months, and can spread to other parts of the body if not picked up quickly. Usually occurs on head, neck, arms and hands, though can be found on skin not exposed to the sun. Appears as thickened, red, scaly spots.
- Melanoma – Least common but most dangerous. Can grow quickly, but usually treatable if detected early. If not, however, it can spread to other parts of the body and prove fatal. Can appear as a new spot or an existing spot, freckle or mole that changes shape and colour. They have irregular, fuzzy borders.
Skin checks at Yarra Medical in Melbourne
It’s common to have around 10-40 moles on your body, with most appearing before the age of 20. Get familiar with them, and if you notice any new spots or changes to existing ones – such as an alteration in shape, size or colour – book in with a GP at Yarra Medical now.
The initial consultation is 10-15 minutes, and if a skin lesion needs to be removed, it can be done so easily and safely at one of our inner-city clinics. If you are concerned about scarring, or would prefer to see a dermatologist, we’re always happy to provide referrals.
If discovered early, skin cancers such as melanomas can be removed before they spread to other parts of the body. So, if you’re not sure about something you’ve noticed on your skin, book in with us now and have peace of mind.
We also recommend an annual skin check with a doctor regardless of any concerns.
Of course, prevention is always better than treatment.
Skin cancer prevention
Never go out in daylight! Well, not quite. We stop short of suggesting you embrace a vampiric lifestyle, but do urge you to make sure your skin is protected on days when UV levels are 3 or higher. (The terrific BOM app is a great way to keep informed on each day’s UV levels). A UV level of 3 does not mean a day of blazing sun and heat. In fact, on those days the UV levels are probably hovering around 10-13, and require extra vigilance. A cloudy, cool day can have a UV level of 3 and, while you may feel chilly on your way to work, what feels like a weak sun can still be having a negative impact on your skin’s cells.
Slip, slop, slap. We’ve grown up with it and heard it numerous times, but repetition is the mother of all learning, so here it is again.
- Slip on some clothing
- Slop on SPF 50 sunscreen or higher. Make sure it is broad spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB rays) and put it on 20 minutes before you go out into the sun and reapply every 2 hours (no matter how long the bottle says it lasts).
- Slap on a hat that actually protects your face, neck, nose and ears (trilby’s may look good, but are useless at protecting your skin)
- Seek shade
- Slide on some sunglasses
UV levels are at their highest in the middle of the day, when the sun is highest in the sky and its rays have less of the planet’s atmosphere to travel through to reach your skin. Be extra careful during these times or, better yet, go out in the sun earlier in the day or later in the evening.
Australia, along with New Zealand, leads the world when it comes to the incidence of melanomas. Two-thirds of us will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70. Why is this so?
One reason is migration. Our country has been populated over the years by people with fair skin whose ancestry stretches back to less sunny climes. This doesn’t mean that those with darker skin – and therefore more melanin – don’t get skin cancer, but rates of melanoma amongst groups such as Indigenous Australians are lower.
Not to get too technical, but Earth’s orbit around the sun is also a contributing factor. In January, during the southern hemisphere’s summer, the planet is 1.7% closer to the sun, and 1.7% further away during the northern hemisphere’s summer in July. It all adds up to an increase of around 7% in UV levels during our summer in contrast to our northern neighbours.
Our beautiful, less-polluted air (mainly due to lower population levels) also means the sun’s rays have less obstruction as they travel towards our skin, and therefore increase UV levels by another 7%. Add it all up, and southern hemisphere locations cop an extra 15% of UV radiation compared to their equivalent northern latitude locations. Thanks to The Conversation for those facts.
But none of this means you need to start packing your bags. You can easily protect yourself from UV radiation anywhere in the world by being vigilant with sunscreen and the way you dress. And, of course, checking yourself anytime you get undressed for the shower and booking an appointment with a GP whenever you feel concerned.
Take a look at our Skin Clinic page for more information.
Book online to see one of our GPs, located in convenient Melbourne locations.
For more information on skin cancer, take a look at the excellent Better Health website.