Cancer is a much discussed health topic today but early detection and intervention has completely overturned the prognosis for millions of people. One test that doesn’t get as much attention as some others like mammograms or prostate exams, is having your skin checked by a qualified doctor. This is unfortunate, as skin cancer is one of the most treatable and easily detected forms of cancer.
You might take good care of your skin by applying sunscreen, washing and moisturizing daily, yet you might neglect a professional skin check when it could save your life.
A Higher Risk Than You Might Realise
You may not be aware that melanoma incidence in Australia has reached astonishing levels. How high is the risk? Out of all nations around the globe, Australia has the highest incidence of this type of cancer. This statistic alone should motivate you to be more vigilant when it comes to regularly checking for skin cancer. But the numbers don’t stop there, as two-thirds of all Australians will receive a skin cancer diagnosis by the time they reach 70 years of age. These alarming figures come from SunSmart, a program that is funded by both the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and Cancer Council Victoria.
According to the Royal Australian College of General Practicioners, the total cases of non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia are seven times more prevalent than all other types of cancer cases combined. In fact, in 2010 alone, almost 800,000 cases of skin cancer were diagnosed and treated across the nation.
Start Being Proactive
Clearly, this isn’t an issue that you can afford to ignore, as more than 2,000 individuals die every year in Australia from skin cancer. This is sad news, especially when you consider that the majority of skin cancers can be prevented with simple steps like wearing sun-blocking clothing, a broad-brimmed hat, applying sunscreen (30 SPF or higher) and staying in the shade when possible.
As well, simple self examinations combined with regular skin checks by a qualified medical professional, give you an excellent chance of finding skin cancer early on – making a successful outcome far more likely. Skin cancer is highly treatable if it isn’t allowed to spread and grow for long periods, highlighting the need for you to be proactive when it comes to your skin.
General Guidelines for Skin Cancer Checks
With this in mind, you no doubt want to start giving your skin the attention it deserves. But you might wonder how often you need a skin check and who you should see. Experts advise that regular self-checks performed at home are the first line of defence against skin cancer. The recommended frequency changes depending upon your age, skin type (complexion), family history and whether you’ve had any skin cancer in the past. Also, other risk factors like working outdoors should be considered.
If you’re at high risk, you should perform a home examination every three months with a visit to a qualified GP or dermatologist for a skin check annually. Individuals at medium risk should check their skin at home every three to six months, with a skin check by a doctor at least every 2-5 years (some recommend an annual check regardless of risk factors, especially for older adults). Finally, if you’re at low risk for developing skin cancer, do a self check once a year and book a one-time appointment with a medical practitioner to assess your risk in future years and provide skin care advice.
Avoiding skin cancer in the first place is the best course of action, as most types are preventable and there are many steps you can take to keep your skin safe. That said, early detection is the next best option and for best results, you should combine the two strategies together. Performing self examinations on a regular basis at home will ensure that any new mole, lesion or other skin cancer doesn’t have many months or years to grow and spread. As well, you should have a GP who is experienced with skin cancer detection, or a dermatologist, check your skin once a year (or at the appropriate interval for your risk level). This diligence on your part could very well save your life!
Don’t wait, start checking your skin today and book an appointment with our Elevate GP for a Skin Cancer Check.
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