The Reliance GP Blog

How to check for signs of skin cancer
Rod Beckwith November 30, 2015

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How to check for signs of skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australia. While most skin cancers are found on the face, head, back and upper limbs, they can appear on any part of the body. The primary cause of skin cancer is UV radiation from the sun, but also from the tanning booths.

Anyone can get skin cancer, especially if you have:
• Fair skin and freckles easily
• Light-coloured red hair and eyes
• A large number of moles
• Family history of skin cancer
• Previous history of blistering sunburn
• Spent a lot of time outdoors.


How to check your skin

  • Make sure you check your entire body as skin cancers can sometimes occur in parts of the body not exposed to the sun, for example soles of the feet, between fingers and toes and under nails.
  • Undress completely and make sure you have good light.
  • Use a mirror to check hard to see spots, like your back and scalp, or get a family member, partner or friend to check it for you.

What to look for 

Any new or unusual or changed freckles, moles, sores or spots, even just reddened areas may be an indication of skin cancer.

By checking regularly you will get to know when something has changed.

Change is one of the important things to look for, a change in colour (any colour, including red, blue, black, brown, white), change in shape (e.g. it used to be perfectly round and now it looks like a map of Australia), change in surface pattern (e.g. it used to be smooth and it is now rough), or if it becomes a sore that won’t go away.


For best protection, The Cancer Council recommends a combination of sun protection measures:

  1. Slip on some sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
  2. Slopon broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30+ (or higher) sunscreen. Put it on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards. Sunscreen should never be used to extend the time you spend in the sun.
  3. Slap on a hat – broad brim or legionnaire style to protect your face, head, neck and ears.
  4. Seek
  5. Slideon some sunglasses – make sure they meet Australian Standards.

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