Skin cancers are the most common malignancy experienced by Caucasian Australians. Those with a fair and freckly complexions and blonde or red hair are typically at greater risk of sun-induced skin cancers. Cancers are often either found by patients themselves or by the careful inspection by your family doctor or dermatologist. The visual diagnosis of skin cancers is a specific and challenging skill, and can take many years of training and subsequent experience to master. There is good evidence that regular examinations for skin cancer is important to catch them early for treatment.
However, there is no reliable data to demonstrate the age when checks should start or how frequently. As an arbitrary ‘rule of thumb’, patients should present to their doctor for yearly skin examinations after their 30th birthday. Those with strong family histories, have had skin cancers in the past, or have had a lot of past or present sun exposure should likely present earlier for checks. The family doctor is the best person to do the checks for most people, however patients can be referred to a dermatologist should there be a high risk or a suspicious lesion found.
It may also be useful for patients to do their own checks, as cancers can occur at any time. At Radien Dermatology Gordon, we recommend patients also do self-checks 2-3 times a year. A good reminder is to do a self-check once every change of season. Patients should be undressed; spouses should check each other’s skin, whilst a single person would have a good look in a large mirror. One can inspect the back by using a small hand-held mirror to reflect off the bigger one. What patients should look for is something new or unfamiliar, or an old spot that may have changed. Anything suspicious should be shown to your family doctor or dermatologist. Remember, early removal of skin cancers is most often curative.