Skin Checks, Wellbeing
For most of us, the first chill of autumn means it’s time to hibernate. We wrap up in layers of clothing, stay inside more and avoid exposing our skin if we can help it. Ironically, that’s why winter can be a dangerous time for skin cancer such as melanoma – because we’re less likely to notice it.
Read on for six good (and potentially life-saving) reasons to book a skin check during the winter months.
1. Your skin doesn’t stop changing – even in winter.
Your skin is constantly changing, and just because it’s winter doesn’t mean it stops changing. Skin damage caused during the summer months can take months or years to manifest as sunspots or the early signs of skin cancer.1
You see, your skin is like a ‘memory bank’. It remembers all the time you spend outdoors with unprotected skin, all the sunburns, tans or sunbed visits. In fact, an Australian study showed that even short bursts of sun exposure over the summer months can all add up to an increased skin cancer risk in the long term (check your risk here).2
That’s why, at MoleMap we recommend having a professional skin check every year, especially if you have a moderate to skin cancer high risk. Because, when it comes to the skin, a lot can change in a year!
Image: Its important to self check your skin at least every 2 to 3 months.
2. We’re less likely to spot skin cancer in winter.
In the summer months, we tend to expose more skin, so we’re more likely to notice the early signs of skin cancer – or for friends or family members to point it out.
Conversely, when we’re covered up more during winter months, we’re less likely to pick up any moles that are changing in size, shape or colour – or the appearance of any new moles, which is also a common sign of skin cancer.
That’s why, even in winter, it’s vitally important to self-check your skin at least every 2 to 3 months – or to ask someone to check it for you. Better still, break up the winter months by booking a comprehensive skin check-up at your local skin cancer clinic.
Image: In summer time your skin busier with signs of sun exposure.
3. Your skin is less ‘busy’ than in summer.
Another reason the colder months are a good time to get your skin checked is that your skin tends to show fewer of the normal signs of sun exposure, which makes the job of identifying any suspicious lesions easier.
In summer, the skin is often ‘busier’ with the signs of recent sun exposure (such as a tan, sunburn or heat rash), so without a highly trained eye, it can be more difficult to identify skin lesions requiring attention.
MoleMap’s proven skin-mapping system is designed to ensure that any potential skin cancers can easily be identified, whatever the season. Our Melanographers (skin cancer nurse) use a dermatoscope to look deep inside a mole’s structure, plus a high-tech camera to take images, which are securely sent to one of our Dermatologists for expert diagnosis.
Image: Full body mole mapping can detect the signs of skin cancer.
4. Melanoma doesn’t hibernate – and it can grow FAST.
The two most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, which is generally slow growing and relatively harmless, and squamous cell carcinoma which is less common and can be life-threatening if not treated early.
Melanoma is less common, but it’s considered the most dangerous form of skin cancer, because it can spread (metastasize) throughout the body very quickly – and once it penetrates below the surface of the skin it can become deadly in just months.3 Yet, if it’s detected early enough, melanoma is relatively easy to treat through excision (removal) of the mole and any surrounding skin.
That’s why our Full Body MoleMap service includes EarlyDetect precision mole monitoring to detect even the smallest changes in your skin over time, including any early signs of melanoma.
5. Melanoma can appear in places that don’t see the sun
While the sun is a known carcinogen and is by far and away the leading cause of skin cancer4, it’s not the only cause. There are several other risk factors at play too, including your skin type and your genetics (having a family or personal history of melanoma).
That’s why, in some cases, melanoma can appear in areas of the skin that rarely or never see the sun, such as on the lower back, between toes, on the soles of feet or on the genital area.
So if you notice a mole or spot that looks different from the others, and/or is changing, growing, itchy, scaly or bleeding – and it’s in an area that doesn’t often see the sun, don’t assume it’s not melanoma. Get it checked out by experts straight away – and make sure you’re checked from head to toe.
Image: If you are skiing, playing sport or working outdoors in winter dont forget to apply a broad-spectrum, SPF 30+ sunscreen.
6. The sun can still damage your skin, even in winter
If you love to hit the slopes in winter, or to enjoy a mid-year holiday in warmer climates (once we can travel again!), don’t forget that the sun can still damage your skin. In fact, snow reflects as much as 80% of UV radiation, which is much higher than the amount reflected by water or sand in the summer months.5
What’s more, some studies have shown that intermittent (occasional) sun exposure can be just as dangerous as regular sun exposure when it comes to increasing melanoma risk.6 So if you’re lucky enough to have a mid-winter holiday overseas, make sure you take sunscreen and apply it regularly – or better still, cover up your pale winter skin between 10am and 4pm!
If you’re skiing, playing sport or working outdoors in winter (especially if you live in one of Australia’s sunnier states), apply a broad-spectrum, SPF 30+ sunscreen to any exposed areas of skin, wear a hat, protective goggles or sunglasses and limit your time in bright sunlight.
At any time of year, if you notice a spot on the skin that looks different from the others or is changing, bleeding, scaly or itchy, see your doctor or book an appointment with MoleMap as soon as possible.
References: 1,3. Arch Dermatol. 2006 Dec;142(12):1551-8. Rate of growth in melanomas: characteristics and associations of rapidly growing melanomas. Liu W1, Dowling JP, Murray WK, McArthur GA, Thompson JF, Wolfe R, Kelly JW. 2. https://www.cancer.org.au/news... 4. Cancer.org: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/uv-radiation.html 5. Skincancer.org (https://www.skincancer.org/press/2018-winter-sun-safety) 6. National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2082713/
Note: This quick questionnaire is designed to give you an idea of your personal skin cancer risk factors.
It isn’t intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis – please contact us if you have any questions about your skin cancer risk.
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