Take care of the skin you’re in
WITH MINISTRY OF SKIN
With summer approaching, moles have been brought to mind as people want to ensure they are safe.
With Australia having the highest cases of melanoma worldwide and it being the third most common cancer diagnosed in Australia, and most common cancer among 15-39 year olds it is really important we understand how to identify a suspicious mole as early diagnosis is the key to survival. 95 per cent of skin cancers can be successfully treated if detected early.
About 70 per cent of melanomas develop as a new mole – hence the name skin cancer, not mole cancer. We say new “mole”, even when it is actually a cancer because when a melanoma is first visible on the skin it can resemble a mole in shape and colour, increasing its risk of being missed. At a skin check it is these small moles we preferentially check are not early melanomas. Unfortunately, the only way to identify these is with a device called a dermatoscope used by a doctor with specialised training, to visualise each mole’s structure to ensure it is normal.
If a new “mole” is a melanoma is always grows. It will grow bigger on the skin and the bigger it gets the more different it will look. These differences and any changes within an old mole can be identified using the ABCDE guide which we advise you use at home.
Each mole should be checked using the following criteria and if any have the features you should get that mole checked:
- A: Asymmetry, Irregular
- B: Border, Uneven
- C: Colour
- D: diameter (usually > 6mm)
- E: Evolving (Changing and Growing)
Knowing your own moles is highly important to identify which is new or changing. To get to know your moles we recommend you self-examine your skin as a simple check could save your life. If caught early, a melanoma is the easiest cancer to treat. A self-examination involves the following:
Inspect every mole on every part of your body from the scalp down to the feet in a systematic way. Remember to check lips, ears, finger nails and soles of the feet. Use the ABCDE criteria above when looking at the moles.
Areas you cannot see, get family or a GP to look.
Check your entire body as skin cancers can appear in places that haven’t been exposed to the sun
If you see anything suspicious, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Outside of self-examinations, there are no organised screening program for melanoma, but those at higher risk should have an annual skin check. Those at high risk include people with:
- Fair skin
- Blue or green eyes
- Fair or red hair
- Family history
- Significant sunburn
- Work outdoors
Melanomas are caused from excessive sun exposure and burning episodes, so the best way to prevent them are when the UV index is 3 or above or you feel you are at risk of burning: Slip on protective clothing, slop on SPF + sunscreen, Slap on a hat, Seek Shade, Slide on sunglasses.
If you are unsure or are worried about a mole, book in a skin check with one of our doctors at Ministry of Skin. Phone 5261 6171 or ministryofskin.com.au.