If you live in Australia, you probably know that Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer IN THE WORLD! Approximately, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, with more than 750,000 people treated for one or more non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia each year.1 With this alarming statistic, every Australian should be performing routine skin cancer checks every 2 months and monthly if you have a known history of skin cancer.
How to thoroughly check your skin for skin cancer:
1) Set aside at least 10 minutes of your time. Don’t rush your check or you may miss a skin cancer that’s just beginning to form –the earlier you find one, the earlier you can treat it and increase your chances of avoiding surgery, potential disfigurement/scarring or even death. Undress completely and make sure you have good light.
2) If examining your skin for the very first time, get to know your pattern of moles, freckles, blemishes, scars and other markings. This way, you’ll be aware of any changes going forward. You may even like to take a photograph of particularly spotty areas if you don’t think you will remember any changes.
3) Facing a full-length mirror, check your front from head to toe. Make sure you check your entire body as skin cancers can sometimes occur in parts of the body not exposed to the sun. Check your scalp (you may need a comb to part the hair), forehead, face, ears, neck, chest and stomach. Women will also need to lift their breasts to check the skin underneath. Check your armpits, arms on both sides, hands and palms, including in between fingers, and even around and below your fingernails – skin cancers can occur anywhere!
4) Sit down on a firm-based chair, such as a dining chair. Check the front of your thighs, in between your thighs and the genital area, your shins, the tops of your feet, between toes and toenail area, then the bottom of feet.
5) Stand up and turn your back to the full-length mirror and check the back of your neck, entire back, buttocks, backs of your thighs and calves, also using the hand-held mirror or a partner as needed.
Changes to look out for:
• Any crusty, non-healing sores
• Small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour
• New spots, freckles or any moles that have changed in colour, thickness or shape over a few weeks to months (especially those dark brown to black, red or blue-black in colour).