Skin cancer

6 golden rules of skin cancer prevention

Skin cancer is an ever-present danger for sun-loving Australians. According to Cancer Council Australia, approximately two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, and more than 750,000 people are treated for one or more non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia every year.

Melanoma — the most dangerous type of skin cancer — is the third most common cancer in Australia, and skin cancers account for 80 per cent of newly diagnosed cancers with GPs conducting more than 1 million patient consultations that involve diagnosing or treating skin cancer annually.

While it’s more important than ever to ‘slip, slop, slap’ when you’re exposed to the sun, there are a few other vital factors that should be part of your prevention and treatment plans.
Here are the six golden rules of skin cancer prevention:

Rule #1: Know your risk factor

For a perfectly normal 25-year-old female with three moles, a skin examination every five years might suffice. However, if you have more moles, a history of skin cancer, or any of your moles look suspicious, you should undergo a skin examination every year.

Rule #2: Age matters

Like all cancers, the older you get the more at risk of skin cancer you are. However, some children and young adults also suffer from skin caner. For that reason, you should undergo regular skin examinations from about the age of 20.

See also: Ageing

Rule #3: Cryotherapy for benign lesions

It’s important to never ignore your doctor’s advice when it comes to skin cancer.
Cryotherapy — or the freezing of lesions — is a highly effective treatment for benign lesions. We wouldn’t freeze lesions that we suspect might be cancer, but if it’s just some benign damage we can certainly use cryotherapy.

Rule #4: Excision for suspicious lesions

For more suspicious lesions, excision is often the preferred option. We have registered nurses at our  practice who can assist with minor surgery, so we might choose to cut out the lesion while the patient is still in my office. 

Rule #5: Stay out of the sun

Once you’ve had a lesion frozen off, it can blister and scab and look awful for two or three weeks. During that time it is best to avoid any kind of trauma to the wound, and sun is a form of trauma. So it’s important to stay out of the sun.

Rule #6: Slip, slop, slap

The old ‘slip, slop, slap’ slogan absolutely still applies. Try to stay out of the sun during the middle of the day, and protect yourself when you are in the sun by covering up as much as you can. And if you’re worried about vitamin D deficiency, remember that it’s much easier to treat low vitamin D levels than skin cancer.