The Importance of a Regular Skin Cancer Check in Sydney

Skin cancer is caused by abnormal skin cell growth. It’s one of the most common cancers. Although it’s impossible to prevent all incidents of skin cancer, the good news is that regular skin checks can reduce your likelihood of developing incurable skin cancer. If you’re based in Sydney, here’s everything you need to know about the disease and the importance of skin cancer checks. 

Skin Cancer in Australia Statistics 

Skin cancer is a major problem in Australia, and the country has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. The reality is that at least 2 in 3 Australians will develop skin cancer before they’re 70 years old, and diagnosis rates are still rising in the 60+ demographic. It’s the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the country, and the cost of treating it sits at around A$1 billion per year

What Causes Skin Cancer  

Skin cancer is common in Australia because of the climate. In the Australian summer, skin can burn in as little as 10 minutes, and sunburn is a primary risk factor for developing melanoma skin cancer. You’re at higher risk of developing skin cancer anywhere in Australia, including Sydney, if you:

  •             Use sunbeds or a solarium 
  •             Have a large number of freckles or moles
  •             Have a family history of skin cancer 
  •             Burn easily or have skin that doesn’t tan
  •             Have blue/green eyes and/or light skin 
  •             Work in the sun 
  •             Suffered sunburn in the past, however mild 

Although it’s fun to visit the beach and enjoy the hot sunshine, there’s no such thing as a “safe” tan. Even if you don’t burn, you’re still causing damage to your skin. 

Types of Skin Cancer

The top layer of your skin is known as the epidermis. There are three layers within the epidermis, and each part can be affected by cancer. The three skin cancer types are:

Basal Cell Carcinoma

This is the most common type of skin cancer. It spreads slowly, meaning it’s usually treatable if it’s diagnosed quickly.  

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This type of skin cancer typically appears on skin most often exposed to the sun, and it spreads quicker than basal cell carcinoma, usually over weeks or months.

Melanoma

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, but luckily, it’s also the rarest, accounting for around 2% of skin cancer cases. This cancer usually presents as a mole or freckle that’s changed in texture, size, colour, or shape. It’s harder to treat because it spreads more quickly to other parts of the body than squamous or basal cell carcinoma. 

Symptoms

Although the symptoms of skin cancer vary widely, you should visit a doctor or dermatologist if you experience any of the following:

  •             A bleeding spot, or a sore that doesn’t heal
  •             A patch of skin that looks different from the skin around it 
  •             A mole or freckle that changes in appearance, texture, or size 

It’s best if you’re familiar with how your skin normally looks so you can spot changes early. That’s where skin cancer checks come in. Here’s what you should know about them. 

Why Regular Skin Cancer Checks are Important 

Skin cancer checks are important because over 95% of skin cancers are treatable if they’re discovered early enough. What’s more, this includes 90% of melanomas. Regular skin cancer checks are the only way to guarantee early detection. 

A dermatologist or doctor can provide a skin cancer check in Sydney for you, or you can perform a self-assessment. 

The Procedure 

If you see a dermatologist for a skin cancer check in Sydney, they’ll look over your skin and pay close attention to any lesions. They’ll also evaluate your risk of developing skin cancer based on your skin type, your family history, and your behaviour patterns. 

The medical professional can then tell you how often you should be checking your skin, and whether they recommend any follow-up procedures. 

For skin cancer checks, it’s best that you see a dermatologist. Dermatologists have undergone extra, specific training to ensure that they know all the skin cancer signs to watch out for. 

Skin cancer checks are non-invasive. Once you’ve undergone a professional skin health check, you can check your own skin with confidence, because you’ll know what’s normal for you.

Checking Your Own Skin

To check your own skin, follow these simple steps:

  •             In good light, undress completely
  •         Check your entire body, including the soles of your feet and nail beds
  •         Use a mirror to check areas such as your back, or ask a relative or partner to check for you
  •         Give your scalp an examination, too 

If you’re unsure how to check your skin properly, always ask a dermatologist. Typically, you should be checking your skin at least every three months, or every month if you’re in a high-risk group for melanoma. For low-risk individuals, it may only be necessary to perform a skin check annually, but it’s generally accepted that frequent skin checks are preferred. 

Preventing Skin Cancer

While it’s impossible to prevent skin cancer, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the disease. These are: 

  •           Wear clothes to cover as much skin as possible
  •           Choose tightly woven fabrics that offer better protection against UV radiation
  •       Use water-resistant sunscreen that’s within its expiry date and has at least a factor 30 rating
  •           Reapply sunscreen regularly 
  •           Wear hats that cover the neck and ears
  •           Wear sunglasses that fit close to the face 
  •           Sit in the shade 

What to Do if You’re Worried About Skin Cancer in Sydney 

If you’re worried about skin cancer, the best thing to do is to consult a dermatologist. They can check over your skin and give you skin health advice. If they spot any alarming symptoms, they can investigate and go over treatment options with you. 

Never delay checking out a potential cancerous change to your skin. Like many illnesses, early detection is key to beating skin cancer. The earlier skin cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat. When combined with lifestyle changes, early detection can also reduce the risk of skin cancer recurrence. 

If you are worried about your skin, need advice on how to better look after your skin, or you need more information about skin cancer checks in Sydney, contact us today.

What Is Molluscum Contagiosum

Pymble Dermatology

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral infection that produces distinctive papules across the skin. Although it can occur at any age, it’s more common in children. Overall, it’s a harmless condition and most people who have it don’t require any treatment. However, it is incredibly infectious and some parents find it worrying. By understanding more about molluscum contagiosum, you can decide on the best course of treatment for your child.

Molluscum contagiosum Is a Harmless Viral Condition

A molluscum contagiosum rash is usually quite distinctive, but it’s also harmless. You may notice small spots that are around 2 to 6 mm in size. Larger spots may grow to between 10 and 20 mm, although that’s quite unusual.

The spots are raised like small domes and they often have a shiny surface. Most are skin-coloured, although they can become red or pink. You may notice a central dimple in the middle, which is usually one of the tell-tale characteristics. Some people also experience small patches of red skin around the spots. 

In most cases, those who have molluscum contagiosum will have only one or two spots. In extreme cases, you can have as many as 20. You should find that the spots are clustered into one area. 

Getting a Diagnosis

If you’re unsure of what is causing your rash, it’s always better to speak with a medical professional. Some doctors will choose to diagnose molluscum contagiosum on the basis of a visual inspection alone. As it is quite a common childhood rash, it isn’t always necessary to undergo further investigations.

However, when your doctor isn’t sure or if you are presenting to them as an adult, they may want to perform a biopsy. A biopsy that is taken from the centre of one of your spots can be analysed in a lab to identify the molluscum contagiosum virus. As the spots can sometimes look like boils, identifying the virus is particularly important if you choose to pursue treatment for the condition.

Undergoing Treatment for Molluscum Contagiosum

It isn’t always necessary to undergo treatment for molluscum contagiosum. If your child has a case of it and it is particularly mild, they may find the treatment too uncomfortable to justify using it. The spots usually clear up within 12 to 18 months. Although it isn’t impossible for them to return after this stage, it’s unusual for that to happen.

With that said, there are times when treating molluscum contagiosum is preferable to leaving the condition alone. Such cases include:

  •   The spots are in an area that causes pain, for example, the locations where they rub against your skin or in the creases of your skin.
  •   The spot is near your eye, and is causing problems with your vision as a result.
  •   The spots are particularly big and you’re starting to feel self-conscious as a result.
  •   You’re suffering with an auto-immune condition or you’re undergoing chemotherapy and have a weakened immune system.
  •   The infection is interfering with your everyday activities in some way.

If your dermatologist agrees that it is worth treating your condition, they may explore several treatment options.

Topical Therapies

Salicylic acid and potassium hydroxide are two topical therapies you can use to treat molluscum contagiosum. They aggravate the spots your dermatologist targets, which your immune system will then detect. After detecting the spots, your immune system will break them down. In some cases, these therapies may result in scarring. As a result, it’s important to choose a practitioner with plenty of experience in using them.

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy involves using liquid nitrogen to freeze the spots until they clear. You may need to attend several appointments for the treatment to work.

Curettage

If your dermatologist chooses to use curettage, they’ll apply a local anaesthetic at the site of the spot first. From there, they’ll use a sharp instrument to remove it. It’s important to follow aftercare advice to avoid scarring.

Some dermatologists may also use a cream called Imiquimod to treat your molluscum contagiosum. However, those who do so are using the product on an off-license basis. As a result, you may find that not all dermatologists offer this therapy.

What You Can Do to Treat Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum can be quite contagious and spreads quite easily between children. If you’re a parent and your child has the condition, try to avoid letting them share a bath with other children. Additionally, if you have the condition, make sure you don’t share towels, bedding, or washcloths with anybody else. 

There’s no need to stay away from work or keep your child off school. Additionally, if you enjoy going swimming there’s no need for you to stop. However, if you do go swimming, try applying a waterproof plaster over the top of your spots. Make sure to avoid the sticky surface of the plaster coming into contact with the spots themselves.

What You Shouldn’t Do

At first glance, your molluscum contagiosum spots may look like spots you can squeeze. It’s important to avoid squeezing them. You may aggravate the area and if you break the skin you could develop an infection at the site.

Don’t try any home-based remedies either. This includes tying the spot at the base to cut off the circulation, or cutting them off yourself. Such remedies may cause the virus to spread further, and they increase your risk of infection.

If you see any at-home freezing kits, avoid them. It isn’t likely that they will work and freezing off spots is quite a precise art. If you try to apply such substances yourself, there’s a risk that you’ll damage the surrounding skin and cause scarring.

Overall, molluscum contagiosum isn’t a condition you need to worry about. Seeking treatment isn’t always necessary either. But if you do want treatment, it’s best to use a dermatologist. They have the skills and tools required to remove spots safely and will always do so without compromising your safety.

What Happens When You Undergo Mole Removal in Sydney?

Have you got moles on your skin? You’re not alone. Most Australians have between 10 to 40 moles at various locations on their faces and bodies. Are you thinking about undergoing mole removal? Perhaps the very idea sends shivers down your spine. Relax! At Pymble Dermatology, our mole removal Sydney dermatologists have years of experience […]

Melanoma Skin Cancer : Getting to Know the Signs

Dr Penny Lim - North Sydney & North Shore Dermatologist

Skin melanoma is the 19th most common type of cancer worldwide. It is also considered more dangerous than non-melanoma skin cancers (i.e. basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer) because of the likelihood of it spreading to other parts of the body if it remains undetected at its early stages.

Australia happens to be the capital of skin cancer, with two out of three Australians likely to have skin cancer by age 70. In 2018, Australia also had the highest rate of melanoma in men. However, this doesn’t mean you should be rushing to get melanoma treatment in Sydney right away.

Skin cancers are more frequently seen than felt, and they rarely hurt. But if you are the typical sun-loving Australian, it’s essential to get to know your skin and what is normal for you, so that you notice any changes as early as possible.

Early signs and symptoms of melanoma

One of the most common signs of melanoma is the formation of a new spot on the skin or an existing mole which appears to be changing. Of course, not all skin spots are suspect; but the best way to determine whether or not a skin growth may be melanoma is by using the ABCDE method:

  •             Asymmetry: The shape of the mole is uneven or irregular.
  •             Border: The edges are irregular, notched, or blurred.
  •             Colour: The mole is unevenly coloured, and may include various shades of black or brown, and perhaps even patches of red, white, pink, or blue.
  •             Diameter: The spot would be bigger than six millimetres across (larger than the size of a pencil eraser); however, some melanomas could be smaller than this.
  •             Evolving: The spot changes in size, shape, colour or texture.

Although these are more common signs of melanoma, they do not necessarily cover every type of suspicious skin growths. So, it’s important to always take note of any changes in your skin or new spots or growths that look different from your other moles.

Other possible symptoms of melanoma

Aside from applying the ABCDE method, you should also be on the lookout for the following:

  •             Sores that don’t heal
  •             Any redness, swelling, or pigmentation which spreads beyond the border of the spot to the surrounding skin
  •             Visible changes in the appearance of a mole such as a lump or bump as well as bleeding, oozing, or scaling
  •             Itchiness, skin tenderness, or pain
  •             Blurry or partial loss of vision, or the appearance of pigments in the iris which appear to be whitish, tan, or dark brown

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that cancer symptoms vary, and that not all moles are suspect, or that all melanomas start as moles. Moreover, although melanomas usually develop in parts of the skin exposed to the sun, they can also grow in areas that do not or rarely get any sun exposure.

Aside from checking the limbs, trunk, face and neck, the soles of the feet, palms of the hands, folds between the toes, the skin underneath the fingernails and toenails, the genitals, and the eyes also need to be examined.

The estimated five-year survival rate of melanoma patients who get early-stage diagnosis and treatment is 98 percent. If the disease has progressed into the lymph nodes, the five-year survival rate falls to 64 percent; but when it has metastasised to other organs, the survival rate drops further to only 23 percent.

Your best recourse for early diagnosis is to visit a skin cancer clinic in Sydney (or wherever you reside).

Melanoma risk factors

Melanoma skin cancer starts from the melanocytes, which are melanin-forming cells found in parts of the body like the skin, the eyes, and inner ears. When melanocytes and grow out of control, melanoma develops.

The exact cause for this phenomenon is unknown, but there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing melanoma. They are as follows:

  •             Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. This includes direct sunlight as well as the use of tanning beds. Early exposure increases the risk, especially if you frequently suffered from sunburns as a child.
  •             Age. The risk of developing melanoma increases with age – just like in most types of cancers. Almost half of newly-diagnosed cases of melanoma involve patients aged 55 to 74. However, it’s also the most common type of cancer affecting women aged 25 to 29.
  •             Weakened immune system. Conditions and infections that lead to immune system suppression can make you susceptible to melanoma. This is why organ transplant recipients who are usually given medication that weakens the immune system (to prevent organ rejection), as well as HIV patients with low immunity, have a higher risk of developing melanoma.
  •             Skin tone or complexion. Fair-skinned Caucasians have a higher risk of developing skin cancer overall, not just melanoma. Redheads, blondes, blue- and green-eyed and freckled individuals are also at a higher risk, as well as people who burn easily.
  •             Moles. As discussed earlier, unusual skin spots or moles may signal melanoma.
  •             Genetics or family history. People with one or both parents or a sibling diagnosed with melanoma are at risk of developing it as well. Individuals suffering from a genetic skin condition affecting the skin’s ability to repair UV damage called xeroderma pigmentosum are also at risk of developing melanoma at an early age.

Early detection is key

As with any other disease, the best way to increase your chances of successful treatment and survival is getting an early-stage diagnosis. This way, you can avail of early treatment and make necessary lifestyle changes to help improve your condition.

Melanoma skin cancer is a fatal disease, but it is by no means an insurmountable obstacle. With early detection and proper treatment, you have better chances of overcoming it.