Being SunSmart in Spring
The Cancer Council’s slip, slop, slap message has been drilled into the Australian consciousness since Sid the Seagull first appeared in 1981. But did you know that 2017 marked ten years since The Cancer Council changed the slogan to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide? As health professionals, we’d like to propose one more ‘S’ – skin check.
We usually start seeing these messages around the beginning of summer, however, in most parts of Australia it’s important to be SunSmart all year round.
Being SunSmart in spring
Even with a cloud covered sky, you’re not safe from sun damage. The risks of premature ageing and danger to our health are not from the heat of the sun; it’s the unseen and unfelt UV radiation.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the UV index in many parts of Australia is still high, even in the Southern Hemisphere’s winter. Anything above a three on the index indicates sun protection is needed, as this article from ABC Science, explains.
Even if your risk of skin cancer is in the low range, research shows that UV exposure is the reason behind 80% of skin’s ageing appearance. So, slop on that 30+ year round to reduce the wrinkles later in life, and protect the largest organ of the body.
Making a mole check appointment before summer
There are a few reasons why booking a mole check appointment earlier in the year is a far better idea than waiting for summer to roll around.
Firstly, skin cancer doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years to become detectable, or the changes can happen over a matter of weeks. During the cooler months, we’re covered up and are less likely to notice subtle changes to a spot.
Add to this, the fact that the reduced sun exposure to skin lesions and moles can allow for better dermoscopy viewing. Even minimal UV exposure can transform a mole slightly and make it appear suspect.
Lastly, the earlier a potential skin cancer is detected, the higher the chance of it being treated successfully, and the less chance of possible metastasis (meaning the cancer moving into another organ).
Who should get a skin cancer check?
Cancer can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, and skin tone. However, some demographics have a higher rate of skin cancer than the general population. Increased risk factors for skin cancer include:
- Pale skin
- History of severe sunburn
- History of skin cancer
- Family history of melanoma
- Numerous moles
- Multiple atypical moles
What does skin cancer look like?
Skin cancers may be mistaken for a pimple, or often start as benign-looking freckles/moles which transform over time. It’s another reason regular skin checks are so important, as changes can be noted from previous sessions.
It’s not just the face and neck that are at risk (although studies show even those applying sunscreen to are not protecting their faces correctly). Skin cancers can also appear on skin that is not usually exposed to the sun – even on the bottom of feet!
The Cancer Council recommends keeping an eye out for new spots, and potentially dangerous lesions using the ABCDE rule:
A – asymmetry, spots that are asymmetrical, not round
B – border, spots with uneven borders
C – colour, spots with an unusual or uneven colour
D – diameter, spots that are larger than 6mm
E – evolving, spots that change shape or colour
If you’re booking your next mole check, Perth’s Rokeby GP uses the highly effective DermEngine software. A mole check is carried out using a dermatoscope – a powerful magnifier and non-reflective light source that accurately photographs and aids identification of suspicious skin lesions. The mole clinic doctors at Rokeby GP have a special interest in and a high level of expertise in diagnosis and management of skin cancer. We recommend all patients receive regular skin checks from the age of 18 years.
To find out more about the Rokeby GP mole clinic service go to this page on our website.