Spot It Early: The Importance of Skin Cancer Checks

Spot It Early: The Importance of Skin Cancer Checks

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australia, affecting thousands of people every year. The good news is it is also highly treatable when detected early. That’s where regular skin cancer checks come in – they’re a crucial step in safeguarding your health.

This blog will be your guide to skin cancer checks, explaining why they’re important, what to look for, and how to perform self-examinations at home.

Understanding skin cancer

Before diving deep into the topic of skin cancer check, we need to understand what causes skin cancer and what are its types. 

Sun damage can mess with the DNA in your skin cells and can make the cells grow out of control, forming tumors (lumps) that can be skin cancer. There are three main types of skin cancer:

Basal Cell Carcinoma: This is the most common type of skin cancer, accounting for about 8 out of 10 cases. It usually grows slowly in the outer layer of your skin.  Basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads to other parts of your body, and treatment is often very effective. It can look like a pearly or waxy bump, a flat sore that bleeds easily, or a red patch that won’t heal.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This is the second most common type of skin cancer. It also grows in the outer layer of the skin, but it can grow more quickly than basal cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma can sometimes spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. It can look like a red, scaly patch, a rough and crusty sore, or a wart-like bump.

Melanoma: This is the least common type of skin cancer, but it’s the most serious. Melanoma can spread to other parts of your body if it’s not treated early. That’s why regular skin checks are so important. Melanoma can appear in different ways, but it often looks like a mole that has changed in size, shape, or color. It can also be a dark spot with an irregular border and uneven coloring.

Why are Skin Cancer Checks Important?

Skin cancer often develops undetected, and early detection is key to successful treatment. Early detection significantly improves the chances of successful treatment and a full recovery. 

However, if left undetected, skin cancer can grow deeper and potentially spread to other parts of the body, making treatment more complex. 

Regular skin checks allow you to become familiar with your moles, birthmarks, and other skin features. This way, you’ll be more likely to notice any subtle changes that might indicate the development of skin cancer. These changes can be so subtle that you might miss them if you don’t examine your skin regularly.

What to Look For:

Now that you understand the importance of regular checks, let’s delve into what you should be looking for when examining your skin.

  • Asymmetry: Normally, moles and birthmarks are symmetrical, meaning one half mirrors the other.  If you notice a mole or spot where one half looks different from the other, in size, shape, or color, get it checked by a doctor.
  • Border: Healthy moles typically have smooth, even borders.  Be on the lookout for moles with uneven, ragged, or blurred borders.  This can be a sign of abnormal cell growth.
  • Color: Most moles are a single uniform color, like brown, black, or tan.  However, a mole with a mix of colors, such as brown, black, and red, or a mole with areas of differing colors within it, warrants a closer look by a doctor.
  • Diameter: While moles can vary in size,  generally, a healthy mole is smaller than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser).  If you notice a mole that has grown larger than this size, or if a smaller mole seems to be rapidly increasing in size, consult a doctor.
  • Evolving: Moles are usually stable over time.  However, if you notice any changes in a mole’s shape, size, or color, or if a new sore appears and doesn’t heal within a few weeks,  schedule a checkup with your doctor.  This is especially important if the mole becomes itchy, bleeds easily, or feels tender.

Performing a Self-Examination:

Once you know what to look for, it’s time to get checking! Here’s how to perform a thorough self-examination at home:

  • Gather your supplies: Find a well-lit room and a full-length mirror. Consider using a hand mirror to examine hard-to-see areas.
  • Undress completely: This ensures a full examination of your entire body.
  • Examine your skin systematically: Start with your scalp and work your way down, checking all surfaces, including between your toes, behind your ears, and the soles of your feet. Don’t forget your genitals!
  • Pay close attention to moles and birthmarks: Note any changes in size, shape, or color.

Early Detection Saves Lives:

If you notice any suspicious changes during your self-examination, don’t hesitate to see a doctor or dermatologist. They can perform a more detailed examination and determine if a biopsy is necessary.

Sun Safety is Key:

Remember, the best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Here are some sun safety tips:

  • Seek shade: Especially during peak sun hours (10 am to 4 pm).
  • Slip on sun-protective clothing: Cover up with long sleeves, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Slop on sunscreen: Use a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen generously and re-apply every two hours, or more often if swimming or sweating.
  • Slap on a hat: Protect your head, face, and neck with a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Slide on sunglasses: Shield your eyes from UV rays with sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays

Beyond Self-Exams: Professional Skin Checks

While self-examinations are crucial, professional skin checks by a doctor or dermatologist are also recommended. These professionals have the expertise to identify even subtle changes that you might miss.

How Often Should You Get Checked?

The recommended frequency of skin checks can vary depending on your individual risk factors. Talk to your doctor about how often you should be screened, but generally, an annual check is a good rule of thumb. People with a higher risk of skin cancer, such as those with fair skin or a family history of the disease, may need more frequent checks.

Era Health offers the best skin check facilities ensuring early detection and treatment. We ensure that any small problem does not convert into  your life-threatening disease. 

Wrapping Up

Skin cancer checks are not merely routine examinations—they are acts of empowerment, compassion, and self-preservation. By prioritizing regular self-examinations, scheduling screenings with a dermatologist, and adopting sun-smart habits, you can take proactive steps to protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer.