when to get a skin check

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world with about 2 in 3 Australians diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before they’re 70. It’s also the most common type of cancer affecting 15-39-year olds.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged, often by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma are the most common types of skin cancers.

Melanomas are the most dangerous form of skin cancer, but the good news is that 90% of melanomas that are detected and treated early are cured.

Symptoms of skin cancer include sores that aren’t healing, small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour and any new spots that change over a short period of time.

Why do I need a professional skin check?

Doctors use a number of tools and techniques to examine your skin beyond what the naked eye can see, so it’s important to get your skin professionally checked regularly, with experts even recommending annual appointments.

Where to get your skin checked:

  • General practitioner – your GP can perform a skin check and will be familiar with you and your family history so can talk to you about your risk factors. They may also refer you to a dermatologist if required.
  • Skin Cancer Clinics – usually operated by GPs with a special focus on skin cancer, with many clinics offering the latest technology for examining your skin.
  • Dermatologists – for a second opinion or for those people at higher risk of melanoma a referral to see a dermatologist is recommended.

Between professional skin checks it’s important to keep an eye on your own skin at home and book an additional skin check if you notice any changes or if something suspicious appears.

How can I check my skin at home?

Different types of skin cancer behave differently so it’s important to check your whole body. For example, a squamous cell carcinoma is likely to develop on skin that’s most often exposed to the sun, while melanomas can develop anywhere even on areas not directly exposed to sunlight.

Use the ABCDE guide to check your skin and take note if any of the following has changed in your existing spots:

  • Asymmetry
  • Border
  • Colour
  • Diameter
  • Evolving

If you find a new spot or one that has changed in size, shape or colour or has started itching or bleeding, make an appointment to get it checked.

3 ways to protect your skin

Our skin needs protecting when the UV index is 3 and above. You can protect your skin by:

  1. wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50+ and reapply every 2 hours or after swimming or exercise;
  2. covering up with a broad-brimmed hat, sunglasses and clothing that protects your back, shoulders, arms, legs and eyes; and
  3. looking for shade, especially during the hottest part of the day.

Depending on your level of extras cover with Phoenix Health, you may be eligible for a benefit towards a skin check. Contact the Phoenix Health Team prior to your appointment to find out if you’re eligible and how to claim.

If you have concerns about the wellbeing of your skin, we recommend making an appointment with your doctor or healthcare professional.

Sources: Melanoma Institute Australia, Cancer Council SA and Australian Skin Cancer Clinics.