Skin cancer checks are an essential part of life for all people living in Queensland, a state with one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Skin cancer check might involve monitoring changes in spots, new spots, persistent irritation, red or scaly marks, spots that bleed easily, and new lumps. You might notice a spot that's changing, growing, or simply looks different from the rest. Being vigilant about these changes always check your skin and promptly see your doctor or get a professional skin check if you notice any of these signs. Early detection is key to successful treatment, especially with signs of melanoma, which can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated promptly. Skin checks are recommended for all adults living in Australia, as part of normal care with your general practitioner
Who has the highest of Skin Cancer Risk?
An annual skin check (or more frequent checks) is recommended for adults if:
- you have a history of skin cancer or dysplastic naevus syndrome (abnormal mole)
- you have an extensive history of sun exposure.
- you have a family history of skin cancer or dysplastic naevus syndrome (abnormal moles)
- you have premalignant change on your skin (solar keratosis)
- you have a large number of moles on your skin
- your doctor has recommended a regular check.
What are Skin Cancer Warning Signs and Symptoms?
Skin cancers can be sometimes obvious but more often subtle changes in your skin. Any change in your skin can alert you to the risk of skin cancer but in particular it is important to watch out for:
- any change in a mole or pigmented spot on your skin
- any new pigmented spot on your skin, particularly if it changes after you first notice it.
- any persisting itch or irritation in a mole or other spot on your skin
- any persisting red scaly mark, particularly if it grows over time.
- any spot that bleeds easily, for instance, with towelling after bathing
- any new lump that arises, particularly if it grows after you first notice it.
If you have noticed any of these changes on your skin, you should present immediately to your general practitioner or skin cancer doctor for a check.
What are the Different types of Skin Cancer?
The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. BCC is the most common and grows slowly, while SCC can grow quickly. The causes of skin cancer are primarily linked to exposure to UV radiation, with risk factors including skin type, sun exposure, and a history of skin cancer. Australia has a high rate of skin cancer, and at Melanoma Scan, we encourage awareness, prevention, and early detection.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most prevalent type, constituting approximately 66% of skin cancers, and originates in the basal cells of the skin. Typically, BCC exhibits slow growth over several months or years and seldom metastasises to other body parts. If left untreated, certain BCCs can penetrate deeper into the skin, affecting nerves and adjacent tissues, posing challenges for treatment.
The likelihood of developing additional BCCs increases if one has already been diagnosed, and it's possible to have multiple BCCs simultaneously in different areas of the body.
Signs of BCC include:
- Occurs in regions with heightened sun exposure, such as the head, face, neck, shoulders, lower arms, and legs, though it can manifest anywhere on the body.
- Presents as a pearl-coloured lump or slightly scaly area that appears shiny and pale, bright pink, or potentially darker.
- May result in the breakdown of the skin (ulceration), bleeding, and inflammation. The affected area may seem to heal and then become inflamed once again.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) constitutes the second most common type of skin cancer, accounting for about 33% of cases. Originating in the squamous cells of the skin, SCCs have the potential for rapid growth over several weeks or months.
Some SCCs are confined to the top layer of the skin, termed SCC in situ, intra-epidermal carcinoma, or Bowen’s disease. When SCC invades through the basement membrane, it is categorised as invasive SCC. If left untreated, invasive SCC can metastasise to other parts of the body. SCC occurring on the lips and ears is more prone to spreading.
Signs of SCC include:
- Typically appearing on areas of the body frequently exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, hands, forearms, and lower legs, but can initiate anywhere.
- Often presenting as a thickened, red, scaly, or crusted spot or a rapidly growing lump.
- May exhibit bleeding, inflammation, and tenderness upon touch.
Melanoma, a form of skin cancer, originates in melanocytes and typically develops on areas of the body that have undergone excessive sun exposure. Uncommonly, melanomas may initiate within the eye or in regions of the skin or body unaffected by sunlight, including mucous membranes (e.g., sinuses, digestive tract, genitals), soles of the feet, palms of the hands, and beneath the nails. Despite being less prevalent than non-melanoma skin cancer, melanoma is deemed highly serious due to its increased likelihood of spreading to various body parts, particularly when not identified in its early stages.
Signs of Melanoma include:
Melanoma exhibits diverse appearances, especially in individuals with numerous moles, making it distinct from other moles. The initial indication often involves a new spot or alterations in an existing mole, characterised by:
Size: The spot may emerge or commence growing larger.
Colour: The spot may display irregular blotches with varying depths and hues, including brown, black, blue, red, white, light grey, pink, or skin-coloured.
Shape or Border: The spot may elevate, develop scaliness, adopt an irregular shape (scalloped or notched), or lack symmetry, presenting different halves.
Itching or Bleeding: The mole may be prone to easy itching or bleeding.
Elevation: The spot may initiate as a raised nodule or evolve into a raised area, often taking on a reddish or reddish-brown hue.
What Can Happen if I Don't Get a Skin Check?
The most important factor in skin cancer care is the prompt recognition of a skin cancer and it's early and complete removal. Melanoma in particular can be deadly if there is a delay in diagnosis. The chance of a person dying from melanoma is most closely related to the thickness of the melanoma at the time of initial diagnosis and any evidence of early spread. In most cases, with prompt recognition and treatment, the chance of dying from melanoma is rare (level 1 melanoma has a 5-year survival rate of >99%), however, in some cases the melanoma has already spread from the initial site where it arose, and in this situation treatment options can be limited. The chance of an individual patient dying from a melanoma has dropped in the last 10 years due to early recognition and treatment of this cancer, so don't delay if you believe you may have one.
Regular Skin Checks is the best course of defence against Early Skin Cancer Detection
In the pursuit of a healthy life, your first line of defence against skin cancer is regular check-ups. Living in Queensland, where skin cancer rates are among the highest globally, it's crucial to be proactive in your healthcare. Whether you've noticed changes or not, an annual skin check, especially if you have a history of skin issues, sun exposure, or a family history, can make all the difference.
Don't underestimate the power of early detection – it can be a lifesaver. Reach out to our dedicated skin cancer clinics in Brisbane Northside or consult with your GP. Remember, your skin's well-being is in your hands, and the key to effective diagnosis and treatment lies in regular check-ups. Take charge of your health and schedule a skin check today.