With Queensland’s summer already packing a punch, it is a good time to learn about your skin health and when you should visit your local GP for a skin cancer screening.
Queensland is often called the “skin cancer capital of the world” as it has one of Australia’s highest prevalence of melanoma, which is also the most aggressive type of skin cancer. Over 3,600 Queenslander being diagnosed with melanoma every year!
The high prevalence of skin cancer in Queensland can be attributed to our hot climate. Queensland receives some of the highest UV radiations in the world as we are close to the equator and have many clear-blue sky days.
Therefore, it is vital that you have regular skin cancer screenings and look for any signs of cancer. Early diagnosis allows treatments to be more successful. The first line of defence for skin cancer is early detection.
What are the risk factors for skin cancer?
For Brisbane, the higher UV index is one of the most common risk factors causing skin cancer. This invisible killer that neither can be seen or felt, damages your skin when overexposed to sun and is a likely leading cause of skin cancer should you fail to protect your skin.
There are other risks factors associated with the disease including,
- Unprotected exposure to higher UV radiations
- Skin that burns, freckles and reddens easily
- A previous case of any skin cancer especially melanoma
- A childhood history to adverse tanning and sunburn
- Family medical history with skin cancer having been diagnosed with a first-degree family member
- Irregular and uneven moles
- Light coloured eyes, fair skin tone and red hair
- Exposure to a pattern of intense UV radiations causing periods of sunburn
- Older age
- A weak immune system caused due to usage of immune suppression medicines
How to check for signs of skin cancer?
It is very important to be aware of your skin health and to know what is normal for your skin. Developing a habit of checking your skin to spot any changes is a good practice and must be regularly done. If you can recognise any changes, seek immediate help from doctors.
- For melanoma, look for spots or changes in an existing spot such asÂ size, shape and colour.
- Look for any changes in your skin, including changes to any spots, moles or rashes on your entire body. It is possible to notice skin cancer signs in areas of the body not exposed to the sun.
- For nodular melanoma, check for spots that are pink or red. These spots can be uneven and raised from the skin. These spots also tend to bleed and form a crust.
- To spot a basal cell cancer, the spots are dry and scaly in texture. They are more reddish and pearly in colours that grow gradually and usually appear in areas exposed to the sun.
- Look for moles in your body, that change the way they appear look. Changes you should be aware of includes an increase in mole size, varying colours usually from brown to black, moles that bleed and develops a scaly and notched outline.
- Look for new moles developed and itches.
- A new spot or old ones that gradually raises and feels like a lump.
How is skin cancer diagnosed?
In the majority of cases, your GP will conduct a physical examination paying attention to any signs of cancer in your skin. If deemed necessary, they will also perform a biopsy and may refer you to a skin specialist.
Physical Examination – A GP will perform a physical examination to look for signs of cancer. Questions about your current medication, medical history and lifestyle could be asked to help determine your skin condition.
Biopsy – If your doctor suspects any signs of skin cancer, part of your skin will be removed to be examined by a pathologist. This is a simple procedure which can be conducted by your doctor or a skin specialist referred by your doctor.
When should I seek help?
It is good to become familiar with the look of your skin especially with our skin moles, the blemishes, and freckles. So, if you notice any changes in their appearances such as changes in colour, shape or size, as this could be an early indicator of skin cancer.
If you notice any unusual change in your skin, you should see your doctor as early detection means greater success in treatment.
At our Victoria Point Skin Cancer Clinic, we have placed a dedicated team of GPs and allied health professionals for identifying and treating skin cancer. We use state-of-the-art technologies like artificial intelligence to provide an improved and accurate diagnosis for all our patients.