Have you booked in for your spring skin check?
It’s that time of year again when many of us are coming out of hibernation and starting to enjoy the sunshine. As the warmer days arrive, it’s a good reminder to book in for a skin check if you are due for one.
In this article, we answer a few common questions about skin checks.
At what age should you start having skin checks?
As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to start having regular skin checks around age 18 to 20. If you have any concerns about a child, by all means book them in.
“We often get parents bringing their children in for a once-off all over check if there’s something in particular they are worried about,” said Bluff Road Medical Centre skin doctor Myn Lee, who consults at our sister clinic.
“The older you are, the more likely you are to develop a skin cancer,” added skin cancer doctor Nyree Littler. “However, you can get a skin cancer when younger and then it is very important to pick it up early when it is easily treatable, so it benefits everyone to check their skin. The youngest patient with a skin cancer I have seen was fifteen years old.”
Why do you need skin checks?
The incidence of skin cancer in Australia is extremely high. According to the Cancer Council, at least 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime.
“Skin cancers can be deadly,” said Dr Littler. “Unfortunately, what looks like a friendly mole with the naked eye can be a melanoma that has spread throughout the body. The most important thing is to pick up skin cancers early before they have spread and when they are much easier to treat. That is done with regular checks.”
“We are also seeing a lot of younger people now with skin cancers,” said Dr Lee. “A lot of people are under the impression that because people are more sun smart and aware of sun protection, the incidence should be going down. However, we are still seeing people in their 30s and 40s with skin cancers.”
How often should you have a skin check?
In general, it’s best to have a skin check every year. “If you’ve had a recent skin cancer, we sometimes recommend slightly more frequent skin checks, so maybe every six months,” said Dr Lee.
“If you have a strong family history of melanoma and you’re covered in lots of moles, you may want to do every six months. Otherwise, most of the time once a year is sufficient.”
What’s involved in a skin check?
At Bluff Road Medical, the first skin check involves total body photography and digital mole mapping using FotoFinder technology.
Patients are asked to undress down to their underwear. A gown can be provided upon request.
The skin doctor then takes a series of body shots. “We keep those photos as a baseline for comparison in the future, so that we can pick up what’s new and what’s changed,” said Dr Lee.
“We then go from top to toe with a handheld dermatoscope, which is like a magnifying device that gives us a better visualisation of the lesions on the skin. We have a good look over the patient’s scalp, face, nails, etc.”
What if something suspicious is discovered?
“Anything that looks irregular or suspicious, we take a close-up photo of using the FotoFinder machine, either for reference or we can organise a biopsy,” said Dr Lee.
We also offer on-site removal of skin lesions at Bluff Road Medical Centre.
How should you prepare for a skin check?
It’s important not to wear any fake tan, tinted moisturiser, make up or nail polish to your skin check appointment.
“It’s generally a very straight-forward, non-invasive process,” said Dr Lee. “A lot of patients who come in the first time are quite nervous.
“If they start coming in at a younger age, it does make it a lot easier. If we find anything it’s usually small and in the early stages, when things are less likely to spread and behave aggressively. This is as opposed to someone who’s never had a skin check their whole life, who may be quite sun damaged and present with more aggressive skin cancers. In these patients, preventative measures may also be too late.”
Tips for self-checks?
Look for the ‘ugly duckling’ – the spot that looks different to all your other spots, according to Dr Littler.
“Change is also important,” she said. “A new spot that is changing or a spot you’ve had for years that has started to change. The most common skin cancers are not melanomas and they are usually pink lumps or patches that are not going away.”
Ready to book in for a spring skin check?
We have a team of skin doctors at Bayside Family Medical ready to perform your next skin check.
Book now or call 03 9583 1630.