Every year, Australia sees many newly diagnosed cancer cases; around 80 percent of them are skin cancers. Australia currently has the highest rate of diagnosed skin cancers compared to any other country worldwide.
Because of this, many refer to skin cancer as “Australia’s National Cancer”, with two in three Australians being diagnosed with the disease before they reach 70 years old, according to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health.
When you identify skin cancer early, you have a better chance of avoiding serious malignancies, surgery, possible disfigurement, and even death. It is, therefore, vital for you to monthly self-check for any signs of skin cancer.
MoleMap recommends having your skin checked by your doctor, dermatologist or MoleMap melanographer, each year and conducting a self check each month in between annual appointments. Here’s how:
Follow these 5 main steps to self-examine your skin.
1. Recognise the types of skin cancer.
2. Know your ABCDEF and G's.
3. Perform a monthly skin self-check.
4. Note anything that is concerning or changing.
5. Show your doctor or MoleMap melanographer if you have spots or moles of concern.
Here are each of these steps in detail.
1) Recognise the Types of Moles, Spots, and Skin Cancer
While there are a variety of different moles and spots to keep your eye on, and some may be benign, you should be aware of the below types. Be sure to reference our MoleMap guide to checking yourself for skin cancer, which has pictorial examples of these types.
- Melanoma. Melanoma can develop as a change in an existing spot, such as a change in the shape, color or size, or it can develop as a new spot altogether. It may appear in areas of your body that doesn’t see the sun and can spread through your entire body if it goes untreated, making it one of the deadliest types of skin cancer.
- Nodular Melanoma. Nodular melanomas are dome-shaped, raised, and firm to the touch. They are even in color and may appear in the colors black, red, pink, or brown. They may begin to bleed or crust over with time.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). SCC’s often develop in areas of the body that get a lot of sun exposure. They often grow as patches or scaly, flat pink spots on your skin. They can be firm and raised, sore or tender, and may bleed easily.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). BCCs may appear shiny and pink. They typically begin as an itch or irritation in a pink spot that continues for up to a few months and may develop a scab or sore. They may also bleed easily as well.
- Atypical Moles. These moles are asymmetrical and have uneven, ragged, notched borders, and uneven colors. They should be checked by a doctor at least once a year or sooner if they change or grow.
- Actinic/Solar Keratosis. While not skin cancer, these can develop into skin cancer over time. These present as a dry, flaky patch that regrows.
- Seborrhoeic Keratosis. These spots are harmless, but you should see a doctor if they don’t heal within a month or become inflamed.
2) Know Your ABCDEF and G’s
These represent red flags that should prompt you to get a spot screening or full body screening.
A: Asymmetry — If the lesion or spot is divided in half; the two halves don’t look alike.
B: Border — A spot with an irregular or spreading edge.
C: Color — A spot that has various colors through it.
D: Diameter — A spot that grows and changes in size or diameter.
E: Elevation — A raised mole or spot.
F: – Firmness — A spot or mole that feels firm and solid and when pressed, doesn’t flatten.
G: – Growth — A mole or spot that’s growing.
Know also that skin cancer may not hurt; you can see it, but you may not feel it.
3) Perform a Monthly Self Check - Step-by-Step Guide
The best time to perform your monthly skin self-examination is before or after a shower. Choose a day each month that you’ll stick to, such as the first or last day of the month, or every 15th of the month for consistency.
You’ll need a good source of light and two mirrors (one full-length, the other a small hand mirror). A comb or blow dryer works well for examining your scalp and, if possible, your partner or spouse as a second pair of eyes.
Besides reviewing your A, B, C, D, E, F, and G’s described above, look for:
- A new mole or spot.
- An existing mole or spot that’s changed.
- A flaky or dry patch on your skin that’s been there for over a month.
- A sore that hasn’t healed after four weeks.
- A dark spot or patch under a toenail or fingernail.
- A spot that looks abnormal or doesn’t seem right.
- A mole that bleeds or is itchy.
Below is a step-by-step guide to checking yourself for skin cancer.
1. Use the full-length mirror to check both the front, back, left, and right sides of your body. Raise your arms when doing this, and check under your breasts if you’re a woman.
2. Bend your elbows to carefully check the back of your fingernails, palms, upper arms, and forearms.
3. Closely examine the backs of your feet and legs, your toenails, soles, and in between your toes. Use the handheld mirror if you can’t see all the parts of your feet.
4. Examine your face, scalp, ears, and neck. Be sure to remember the backs of your scalp, ears, and neck, using the handheld mirror (or your partner). Check your scalp entirely by parting your hair and moving it around with the comb or blow dryer. Again, you can have your partner perform this step.
5. Check your buttocks and back using the handheld mirror if you’re uncomfortable having your partner do it for you.
4) Note any lesions of concern
In your self-examination, use our downloadable body map as a guide (available here: "The MoleMap guide to checking yourself for skin cancer"). In this document, you will find a helpful diagram on which you can note spots or moles that concern you as well as images of the key types of spots to look out for.
Using this map will be helpful for your doctor to note whether the spot is new, if it has changed or grown, or even if it has been irritated or bleeding when you noticed it.
5) Follow Up with your doctor or MoleMap melanographer
If you have noticed any spots or moles that concern you, these should be shown to your doctor or a specialist service for assessment. If the spot or lesion has features of melanoma this should be presented as soon as possible
Here at MoleMap, we can view the external and subsurface structure of any mole using state-of-the-art imaging equipment at one of our many accredited clinics. MoleMap cameras see what’s going on below the surface of your moles — seeing far more than your naked eye. This coupled with the diagnosis of a specialist dermatologist gives you access to an expert opinion when you need it.
For comprehensive surveillance of all your spots and moles MoleMap provides a Full Body MoleMap service. This service also includes free spot spot checks for spots or moles you are concerned about inbetween annual appointments
Schedule your Full Body Molemap session online or give us a call at 1800 665 362 today.