Health Check

Spot the difference: Moles or melanomas?

Checking your moles is as easy as ABC…DE.

Written by Editor Medibank
Practicing the five sun safety rules is the best way to avoid skin cancer.

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.

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. Learn more about common cancers in Australia, including risks, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment here.

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