Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection
To minimise you and your family's risk of skin cancer adopt the following 5 sun protection measures when UV levels reach 3 and above. In Canberra this will be for part or most of each day from the beginning of August through to the end of May. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) issues a daily SunSmart UV Alert as a reminder of what time you need to take care of your skin when spending time outdoors in Canberra.
Around June and July sun protection is generally not necessary in Canberra due to low UV levels (under 3). Sun protection in June and July may still be required in alpine regions or around highly reflective surfaces or for people who have a history of skin cancer or are spending extended time in the sun i.e. outdoor workers. For more information read Cancer Council Australia’s Position Statement Risks and Benefits of Sun Exposure.
Remember, extra care should always be taken between the "peak UV period" of the day. Cancer Council ACT recommend people aim to minimise their outdoor activities and events when possible between 11am and 3pm during the summer/ daylight saving period of the year, this is the time when UV levels are at their strongest, increasing your risk of sunburn and skin damage that can lead to skin cancer.
For more information on the above sun protection measures and more view our on-line Information Sheets.
Finding skin cancer early
More than 90% of skin cancers can be successfully treated if detected early. Individuals who are concerned about their skin cancer risk or any changes to their skin should seek advice from a medical practitioner to discuss their skin cancer risk and need for medical checks or self-examination etc.
Know your skin.
Become familiar with your skin and see a doctor as soon as possible if you notice:
- a spot that is different from other spots around it
- a mole or freckle that has changed in size, shape, or colour
- a suspicious spot that is new or has changed over weeks or months in colour, size or shape, or
- an inflamed sore that has not healed in 3 weeks.
Cancer Council Australia and the Australasian College of Dermatologists do not endorse the practice of skin checks in public places as a screening method, but do recognize the value in promotional or educational activities that raises awareness of early detection and skin cancer prevention.
Read Cancer Council Australia’s Position Statement – Screening and early detection of skin cancer.
Take a good look at yourself!
The general public are encouraged to check all areas of their skin, including skin not normally exposed to the sun. Look for changes in shape, colour or size of a pigmented lesion or a new lesion. Individuals should seek assistance from others to check difficult to see areas such as the back.
Individuals who are concerned about their skin cancer risk OR have noticed a spot on the skin that has changed in size, shape or colour, or that itches or bleeds, or that wasn't there before, should see a doctor as soon as possible. Your general practitioner (GP) should be your first point of call.
In some cases your GP may refer you to a specialist or even suggest you go to a skin cancer clinic. For more information or to request a brochure on early detection signs call Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20.
(Image courtesy of Cancer Council WA)