Dear Dr Graeme Cummings, How often do I need to get a skin cancer screening?
Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia. There are three main types of skin cancer. They are Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) and Melanoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
BCCs start in the basal cells of the epidermis and makes up about 70% of non-melanoma skin cancer. BCCs grow slowly over months and years. It rarely spread to other parts of the body. If it does, it’s usually on head, face, neck, shoulders, lower arms and legs where it is more exposed to the sun. They may appear as a pearly-coloured lump or slightly scaly area that is shiny or bright pink in colour, but some appear dark. They may also bleed and become inflamed. Lastly, they may appear to heal then become inflamed again. In general, any lesion that bleeds without trauma or fails to heal within 6 weeks, should be assumed to be a skin cancer, likely a BCC until proven otherwise. A doctor should always check it.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
SCC starts in the squamous cells of the epidermis and makes up about 30% of non-melanoma skin cancers. SCC tends to grow quickly over several weeks or months. If left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body and become an invasive SCC. And, SCC on the lips and ears are more likely to spread. Usually appear on parts of the body most often exposed to the sun but can start anywhere on the body. SCC may bleed and become inflamed and are often tender to touch and often appears as a thickened, scaly or crusted spot or rapidly growing lump. They are also more common as you get older.
Melanoma occurs on parts of the body that have been overexposed to the sun. Although it is one of the less common types of skin cancer, it is considered the most serious. This is because it is more likely to spread in other parts of the body, especially if not detected early.
Our clinic recommends getting a full body mole photography every 3 months to 3 yearly, depending on your personal risk profile. If you have a history of skin cancer, you are likely to need a skin check more regularly. However, someone with minimal risk factors will have a longer period between skin checks.
Sun protection by clothing and sunscreen and early detection is your best defence against skin cancer.
Phone Mackay Skin Clinic on 4953 3122