Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world. Approximately 800,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year in Australia, with 1% of these being melanoma. While there are no formal guidelines for the role of skin checks in the general population, there are recommendations regarding skin cancer screening.
Many important skin changes are detected at home by the patient, spouse, partner or friend. Sometimes, in the case of melanoma, this can be lifesaving. Any new moles, or new skin lesions, changing moles (getting bigger, darker, itching or bleeding) should be brought to your GP’s attention quickly. Regular self-checks can be an important component of skin cancer detection.
It is suggested that those with red hair, very fair skin, a family history of melanoma in a parent or sibling, or for those that have a personal history of skin cancer, including non-melanotic skin cancers (squamous and/or basal cell carcinomas) should perform self-checks every 3 months . Self-checks every 6 months are recommended for those patients that don’t fall within the categories noted above.
YOUR GP SKIN CHECK
Your GP can help you decide how often to have a formal skin check. This is generally done yearly, but can be more often for those in a higher risk group. The skin check is set up as a separate appointment to allow time for a full review of your skin. We ask that patients wear underwear or swimmers (two piece for women) that they are comfortable being examined in. It is best to not wear any makeup or nail polish to your appointment, as these can hide important skin and nail changes that should not be missed.
Your doctor will fully examine your skin looking for any changes that may need further attention. It is important to point out areas that you may have noticed as concerning. Your skin check may include treatment of pre-cancerous lesions, and identification of lesions that require a surgical biopsy. Terrigal Medical Centre offers regular skin cancer clinic appointments by doctors with years of experience in skin cancer medicine.