Spot the difference: Moles or melanomas?
Checking your moles is as easy as ABC...DE.
Growing up in our sunburnt country, we’re taught from an early age of the risks associated with sun exposure; from premature ageing to vision damage, and of course, skin cancer, with two in three Australians predicted to be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70.
New guidelines for assessing moles were released in 2018, with statistics revealing that up to 20% of all melanomas are only partially pigmented (hypomelanotic) and may be more difficult to detect given they are less obvious in nature and paler in colour. Read on to find out more about the new guidelines and how they affect you.
Learning to spot the difference
According to Cancer Council Australia, 95% of skin cancers can be successfully treated if detected early. As a first point of call, you can perform your own skin check using the ‘ABCDE method’ below. If you notice any of the following symptoms in your moles, arrange a visit with your doctor.
Asymmetry: One half of your spot doesn’t match the other
Border: The edge of your spot is spreading or ragged
Colour: Your spot is made up of a number of different colours
Diameter: Your spot is growing wider
Evolving: Your spot is changing and growing
Getting familiar with your own skin could save your life. The sooner skin cancer can be identified and treated, the better the chance of a positive outcome. It’s a good idea to perform your own skin checks regularly, or as recommended by your doctor. It’s also important to remember that most skin cancers can be prevented by using good sun protection and, if your skin protection habits have been a bit slack, it’s never too late to improve those habits, no matter how old you are.
Protecting your skin
Are you familiar with the SunSmart five levels of sun protection? If not, you should be! Following these five steps will help protect your skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun. If you need a quick refresher, they are:
- Slip on some clothing,
- Slop on some sunscreen,
- Slap on a hat,
- Seek shade,
- Slide on sunglasses.
SunSmart explains that while sun exposure in the first 10 years of life determines a person's lifetime potential for skin cancer, sun exposure in later life determines the extent to which this potential is realised. So, whether you’re 15 or 50, it’s important to always wear protective clothing, apply sunscreen regularly, and seek shade when you’re out in the sun to reduce your skin cancer risk.
To learn more about common cancers in Australia, including risks, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, click here.
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