Understanding Skin CancerDownload this book (pdf, 898.07 kb)
Detecting skin cancer
It's important to get to know your own skin and Cancer Council recommends you check your skin every three months. Most people have moles, birth marks, freckles and blemishes. Get to know these well, and it is more likely you will notice if anything has changed since you last looked.
Skin cancers (including melanoma) that are detected and treated early have a better outcome than most other types of cancer. Also, skin cancer that is found early needs less invasive treatment.
What to look for
Look for these things when checking your skin:
- any spot, mole or freckle that has changed in shape, size or colour
- a new spot that is different from other spots around it
- any small, dome-shaped lump that wasn't there before
- a sore that doesn't heal and/or ulcerates or one that heals and breaks down again
- any skin spot that you are worried about.
How and when to check your skin
As a general rule, the more regularly you check your skin, the greater the chance of detecting a skin cancer before it becomes life threatening.
It's easy to check your skin and should only take 15 minutes. Just follow these steps and or ask your friend or relative to look at the parts you can't see.
- check your whole body - from head to toe, front, back and sides
- check your head and neck - don't forget your scalp, ears, face and lips. Check the torso, front back and sides
- check your arms and hands, including the nail beds
- check your buttocks and legs - don't forget the soles of your feet, and between the toes and the nail beds.
When to see a doctor
The risk of developing skin cancer increases with age, however melanoma is also a common cancer in younger people. Get to know your own skin and consult your GP immediately at the first sign of any change.
People at high risk of skin cancer should be advised by their GP about checking their own skin, as well as having regular check ups with their GP and/or dermatologist.