As Australians, we are unfortunately very familiar with skin cancer and how easy it is for it to go unnoticed. As a result, we’re generally aware that it’s necessary to get your skin checked for anything unusual. Currently, however, pathologists are now urging Aussies to catch up on skin checks they might have missed as a result of lockdowns.
In this sunburnt country, skin cancer affects as many as two in three Australians at some stage in their lifetime. Melanoma is the most common cancer among 15 to 39-year-olds, and more broadly, one person is diagnosed with melanoma almost every half an hour in Australia.
However, when comparing Medicare data from January to September 2020 and 2021 against the same period in 2019, removals for skin lesions for both suspected and confirmed cancers were down in all states and territories (except the ACT and Tasmania).
Although we had a wet summer with little sun, that doesn’t mean that our risk of developing skin cancer is any less.
As Victoria Beedle, CEO of Melanoma Patients Australia explained,
“Australians might feel their skin cancer risk is lower if they’ve spent less time outdoors during periods of lockdown. However, it is important to remember that skin cancers often develop over months and years. Risk increases with age as well as a history of sunburn, so it’s not only your current sun exposure which is of concern.”
With the annual Skin Check Day just passing us (February 25th) now is a better time than ever to get your skin checked.
The stats are stark. And they make a clear case for getting your skin checked. The inaugural National Skin Check Day (ANSCD) asks all Aussies to be proactive about booking in with their doctor for a skin check-up in the hope of encouraging early detection and prevention of melanoma.
The initiative comes from Jason Sprott, Founder of Mates Against Melanoma. Sprout began Mates Against Melanoma in 2018 after his own terminal metastasis melanoma diagnosis. The organisation works to “provide education and awareness of this disease to encourage early detection and prevention”.
If you’re curious about getting your skin checked, here is a quick guide to some of the more common questions and misunderstandings in this area.
Jason Sprott spoke to Lifehacker over email to inform the below.
Where is the best place to get your skin checked?
“The best place to get your skin checked is with a trained GP or an accredited dermatologist,” Sprott said.
You can make a booking with your local doctor’s office, or seek out a referral to visit a dermatologist. Additionally, there are a number of skin check clinics around Australia where you can pop in and see a GP (usually) who specialises in skin cancer diagnosis.
How often should you get your skin checked?
“Once every 12 months minimum, especially at the end of summer,” said Sprott. However, if you’re at a higher risk or have had extended sun exposure, it is worth upping that to every six months.
“Aussies can also do self-examinations or check for a mate and family member by looking for any changes to the skin. If changes occur, take a picture of it and seek medical advice immediately,” Sprott added.
What are some common misconceptions?
It is not painful to have a standard skin check. Your doctor will be looking over your skin with a diagnostic device, Sprott advised, but there will be no physical discomfort.
These checks are also pretty speedy! They usually take about 20 minutes to run through, though if you have lots of moles or freckles there is a chance it’ll take a little longer.
Lastly, your initial checks do not need to set you back a considerable amount, financially. While this varies depending on who you have complete your skin check, most GP or skin check doctors will charge between $100 and $150; dermatologists tend to cost $250 to $350, and your medicare rebate on the visit is set at $37.60.
Got any further questions for us on skin checks in Australia? Pop them in the comments section below. If not, I’d take this as your annual reminder to book that appointment in. It’s far too important to shrug off.
This article has been updated since its original publish date.