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 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.
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.
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.