If you live under the hot Australian sun, there's one danger you need to be aware of: skin cancer. These small areas of abnormality can appear anywhere on your body and, while most skin spots are completely harmless, there are some that are deadly.
What types of skin cancer are there?
Skin cancers come in many forms, and fall into three categories:
Basal cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
The most prevalent type of skin cancer, and the one least likely to do you harm, BCCs appear on areas of your skin that have been exposed repeatedly to the sun. A BCC can appear as a lump or scaly patch on your skin, and its colour can range from pale white to red. Some BCCs will turn into ulcers that never truly heal.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
SCCs will also crop up on areas of your skin that have often seen the sun, and may grow over a period of months. An SCC will be scaly and red, it may form an ulcer, or it might bleed if bumped or scratched. SCCs take a long time to appear and are often found in people in their fifth and subsequent decades of life.
The most concerning of all skin cancers, melanomas can invade other parts of your body if they're left untreated. Unlike the other common forms of skin cancer, melanomas may appear on sun-damaged skin or on skin that hasn't had much exposure to the sun. The key to recognising a melanoma is its changing size, colour or shape.
How do you check for skin cancer?
While it is possible to carry out your own skin cancer check, only a doctor trained to recognise the many forms of skin cancer can take is equipped to evaluate the health of your skin during an official skin cancer check, diagnose any problems and arrange treatment should it be necessary. An annual check-up is recommended to ensure any skin cancers present on your body are identified and dealt with quickly and professionally.
If you do suspect you have a skin cancer somewhere on your body, or your doctor identifies a BCC, SCC or melanoma, the good news is that early intervention is key in ensuring the spot is removed and you can carry on with your life.
An annual skin cancer check will not only keep professional eyes on your skin, it will give you peace of mind as well.