How’s your skin looking? Katie Clift from Cancer Council Queensland wants to know.
Not just… is it clean, is it soft, is it glowing? (Though all those qualities are vitally important, especially the clean factor.) I mean, how is it really looking?
Can you remember the last time you took a few minutes to check your skin for any new spots or lesions, or to see if any existing spots, freckles or moles had changed in shape, colour or size?
It’s important to do thorough checks — all over. Yup, all those hard-to-see areas or places you may not even want to look. It’s essential you get to know your own skin, because even a small change is worth taking note of.
Queensland is the skin cancer capital of the world. We have the highest rates of the disease globally, with more than 136,000 new cases diagnosed each and every year (around 133,000 non-melanoma skin cancers, and about 3200 melanomas).
Along with getting to know your own skin (really getting to know it, remember: all over, even if you need a friend to help!) it’s important to visit your GP or a skin cancer clinic for regular skin checks.
Seeing the same doctor for your regular skin check will help to ensure any changes are detected easily.
Only about 30 per cent of people visit their GP for a whole-body skin check at least every three years – and those who don’t may be at a higher risk of late diagnosis.
Our research shows that making that one appointment in that time frame can reduce the risk of being diagnosed with more advanced melanoma by 14 per cent. Fair skinned people and others at a high-risk should get annual or six-monthly checks.
Yup, it’s worth making the time for a check. Detecting skin cancer early gives you the best chance to beat the disease.
Now that we’ve got that down pat – let’s move on to some new research that could actually spark a game change in the way skin checks are conducted in Queensland, particularly for melanoma survivors.
Previous studies of melanoma survivors show that the risk of being diagnosed again with an invasive melanoma is about six to seven times higher than that of the general population.
Ground-breaking new research has found the risk is greatest on the same part of the body as the original melanoma. This means that if you’ve ever had a skin cancer, you need to keep an extra vigilant eye on that area of your body.
The research, by CCQ and the University of Queensland, also found that regardless of whether the first melanoma diagnosis was at an early stage or invasive, the risk of being diagnosed with another invasive melanoma was high.
These results have important implications for all Queenslanders, suggesting that those of us who may have been repeatedly sunburnt in the same spot, should pay a great deal of love and attention to that spot.
Our findings are also important for doctors, informing their follow up of skin cancer patients.
Changes to check for include new moles, moles that increase in size and/or itch, tingle, bleed or weep, spots that look different from the others, a spot that becomes raised or develops a lump within it, or the outline of a mole that becomes notched.
It’s common not to experience any painful symptoms caused by undetected skin cancer, which means you need to keep your eyes on your skin.
So if you’ve got skin, get to know it. It could save your life.