How to check your body for melanoma
Adding a self-screen session to your summer skincare regime could save your life.
It kills one Australian every five hours, but with early detection up to 90 per cent of melanoma cases can be cured with surgery alone.
And regular self-checks at home are a vital first step in lowering your skin cancer risk.
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Know the skin you’re in
It’s important to begin by studying your skin and existing markings on your body, says Associate Prof Pascale Guitera, of the Melanoma Institute of Australia.
Aside from the appearance of a new spot, the first thing to look for is a change in an existing freckle or mole.
“A typical melanoma can look very similar to a mole or a freckle,” says Pascale.
“But if the spot begins to change or grow, is acquiring an irregular border or a difference in colour (it can be pink), if it is raised or begins to itch or bleed, it is a cause for concern and further investigation.”
Monitoring is as easy ABCDE
Pascale advises using the ABCDE guidelines to detect any potential early signs of melanoma:
- A is for asymmetry: One half of the mole, freckle or spot does not match the other.
- B is for border: The edges of the spot are irregular, blurred, notched or ragged.
- C is for colour: The colour may differ over the entirety of the mole or freckle. There may be differing shades of brown or black and sometimes shades of red, white or blue.
- D is for diameter: The length across the spot is larger than 6mm – about the size of a pencil eraser.
- E is for evolving: Any change in the above features, elevation, shape or other characteristics such as itching or bleeding is cause for concern. This step may be the most important of all warning signs, with any change a cause for closer examination.
Follow these seven steps for your at-home skin check
- Stand in front of a full-length mirror in a well-lit room.
- Use a brush or hairdryer and part your hair into sections to check your scalp. Ask a partner or family member to check your scalp and other areas you cannot see, like your back.
- Check your face and neck, including ears, nostrils and lips.
- When checking your arms, be sure to check underneath too. Don’t forget your fingernails.
- As you move down your body, check places that may not be exposed to the sun as melanoma can still be found in these areas.
- Monitor changes by taking photographs every few months and comparing them.
- React quickly if you see something growing and/or changing.
Get any abnormalities checked out
Schedule an appointment with a GP or a dermatologist for a skin check if you spot a lesion of concern.
Regular skin checks at home can help ensure you don’t miss anything, but they’re most-effective when paired with regular visits to a professional.
“A GP will use tools and techniques to examine skin thoroughly beyond what the naked eye can see,” Pascale advises.
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Watch Jo Stanley and Ed Phillips chat with Jimmy Niggles – the founder of Beard Season – about the importance of regular skin checks in preventing melanoma on House of Wellness TV:
Written by Jenna Meade.