Australia is lush with coastal cities and towns abundant with outdoor activities. Visiting the beach and surfing, swimming, or taking scenic coastline walks are popular weekend activities. But what toll do these adventures take on your skin? Unfortunately, the news is not great.
Australians have one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world. In fact, nearly two out of three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they’re 70. Moreover, the case of Australians affected by skin cancer is two to three times the rates in Canada, the US, and the UK.
Why Do Australians Have Such High Rates of Skin Cancer?
While the theory of an ozone hole (thin ozone layer allowing strong UV rays to reach the earth) is often to blame, the true culprit seems to be simpler.
Australians have fair skin in a part of the world with very strong sunlight. Melanoma rates are far lower in people with pigmented skin, such as aboriginal people, who are native to the environment.
Another risk factor is a family history of melanoma or skin cancer. A study conducted at the University of Sydney in 2016 surveyed 2,727 people and found 39% of that group to be at a higher risk due to family history. If you have a history of skin cancer in your family, it’s important to know the risks and take action.
What Do Skin Checks Involve?
Self-examination may sound like a lot of effort. Between work and play, it’s easy to forget the simple steps we can take for self-care and wellbeing.
While most people know that early detection is best, there’s still a lot of confusion about whether you need to undergo regular skin checks. You may be surprised to learn that, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, 40% of melanomas are detected by patients at home because they noticed a suspicious looking mole or a change to one. This goes to show how important regular self-checks are.
However, if you are a high-risk person or you’ve found a suspicious-looking mole or spot, it’s beneficial to visit a melanoma detection specialist or dermatologist every 6 to 12 months for a more thorough check.
Skin cancer detection clinics like MoleMap are an excellent source for education on self-examination and the early detection of melanoma and other skin cancers. They have two main outcomes they hope to achieve for their patients: “Great, I know that I don’t have melanoma”, or “Thank goodness, it was found early so it can be treated”.
MoleMap’ clinical excellence and the technology they use are the gold standard for the detection and diagnosis of melanoma and skin cancers. They also provide a full body molemap surveillance program, where they monitor changes to your skin and spots over time — changes that cannot always be seen with the naked eye.
Self-examinations are quite simple. First, get to know your skin on an intimate level. Take note of your moles and spots, and remember their location. Use a mirror for hard-to-see areas.
The idea is to look for any changes in shape or size of your existing moles and to take note of any new ones that may have arisen. If you see anything suspicious, get checked immediately.
If you are at high risk or have noticed new moles or spots on your body, you should get a regular screening every 3 to 12 months.
Become very familiar with your body and check it often. If you see anything new, changing or unusual, get it checked. Early detection is your best protection.
At What Age Should You Start Having a Skin Check?
Skin cancers are quite rare in young people. That said, the earlier you begin getting your skin checked, the better, especially if there is a family history of skin cancer.
People at high risk for skin cancer fall into the following categories:
- Fair skin
- Light eye colour
- Depressed immune system
- Unusual moles
- A family history of melanoma in a first-degree relative
- Red hair
- Lots of moles (more than 50)
If you fall into any of these categories, it’s best to start regular skin checks by the time you reach 30.
The rest of the population can wait until they are between 40 to 50 to participate in regular checks. As always, self-checks should occur early and often.
Skin Check: Whom Should I See?
It’s a good idea to visit your GP first for a general check and conversation, and if further action is needed, get a referral and see a dermatologist. Or you can self-refer to skin cancer detection specialists like MoleMap.
We recommend that Australians have regular skin checks with a health professional who is an expert at skin cancer detection and who uses a handheld dermatoscope and takes dermoscopic and clinical imaging of your skin. We recommend full body mole mapping and surveillance for people who have lots of moles or who are at high risk of melanoma and skin cancer. However, this service is also for anyone wanting peace of mind that their skin will be monitored for changes over time.
When you get a skin check, you don’t want any stone, or mole in this case, unturned. Visit skin cancer detection specialists who are experienced professionals at detecting and diagnosing early-stage melanoma — when it’s most treatable.
Australia has one of the highest incidences of melanoma in the world. This is due mostly to increased sun exposure and an environment not built for fair skin. Regular self-examinations are essential for early detection of any changes.
If and when you notice an unusual mole or spot on your body, see your GP and then get a specialist diagnosis at a melanoma detection clinic like MoleMap. You can visit our website to find a skin clinic near you.