Five risk factors to skin cancer detection

Providing workplace health and well being on site solutions increases both the awareness and the early detection of disease, thereby minimising chronic disease.

Consultation times in a well run onsite clinic should be used in an opportunistic way to educate workers in taking ownership of their health: teaching the importance of building a relationship with a primary healthcare provider (General Practitioner), encouraging preventative healthcare and early detection of chronic disease.

Providing health examinations and review is only part of the whole picture and in many cases does not change health behaviour.

Non-changeable and changeable risk factors are present in the majority of disease.  Educating workers in firstly understanding their own set of “risks”, and secondly what measures they can take to reduce their “changeable” risk factors empowers them to better healthcare and results in a healthier workforce.

Preventative healthcare ensures they have their disease risk factors checked to detect any early signs of disease, which when left untreated may result in chronic disease, unable to be cured and may lead to early mortality. The majority of disease detected early can be successfully treated.

Preventative healthcare checks are available for the top causes of chronic disease and early mortality in Australia.

Cardio vascular or heart disease is number one in Australia, followed by cancer, with the top four being bowel cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and melanoma.

In this article, let’s look at skin cancer and in particular Melanoma as the number four on our top cancer list.

Skin cancer is almost totally preventable, where 90 per cent of skin cancers are caused by sun exposure. However, Australia continues to have the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world.

Risk factors: How many do you have?

Non-changeable factors include a family history of melanoma; fair or pale skin; red hair; a large number of moles; a history of sunburn as a child.

Changeable factors include continued sun exposure as an adult.

Two in three Australians will develop a skin cancer in their lifetime. These high statistics are made up of Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma.

BCC and SCC are called “non melanocytic” cancers (they have no pigment in the majority of cases) and appear in areas of bodies which have been exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, scalp, chest, upper and lower arms, upper and lower legs and back.

Melanoma is a little different as in the majority of cases will develop in a “mole” that has been present for many years, a mole that may never have been exposed to the sun.

Most importantly, melanoma is no different to any other form of cancer.

Early detection of melanoma is crucial to ensure it is removed in the early stages prior to invading other healthy tissue and cancer cells spreading to other parts of the body.

Education on the “universal ABCDE” detection of melanoma is invaluable to early detection:

  • Asymmetry: A benign (healthy) mole is not asymmetrical. If one were to draw a line through the centre of the mole, both sides will be the same, meaning it is symmetrical.
  • Border: A healthy mole will have a smooth, even border.
  • Colour: Most benign moles are of one colour only – normally a shade of brown.
  • Diameter: Benign moles usually have a smaller diameter.
  • Evolving: Most moles look the same over time with no change.

What to look out for?

Any change  indicating the mole may no longer  be “benign”, but instead may have changed to become an early melanoma:

  • Asymmetrical: Both sides are not the same
  • Border: Has an uneven border
  • Colour: Has developed more than one colour – different shades of brown or black or perhaps red, blue or white
  • Diameter: The mole has increased  in size
  • Evolved: Any chance noticed in size change, shape, become raised, started to itch or bleed

If any change is noticed or suspected, an appointment should be made with a doctor for a professional check.

What should be done?

  • Self check every 3 months
  • Have a skin examination on a regular basis. If one is in a high risk category, every 12 months is recommended
  • Make the skin examination part of one’s annual health check
  • If one notices a change in a mole or have a new lesion which persists, make an appointment for it to be checked.

One should protect himself 365 days per year by covering up, wearing PPE (long sleeves, hats) at work; covering up especially the arms and legs in leisure time; wearing hats with brims (baseball caps afford little protection) and applying sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.

Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes prior to going out into the sun to the face, ears and areas which may be exposed, and it should be re-applied during the day.

Building a program for any budget since 2004

Skin Patrol’s program, developed by healthcare professions, aims to provide services which will lead to early detection of health problems, educate patients in the need for preventative healthcare, provide positive personal outcomes and at the same time give companies a positive return on investment (ROI).

Skin Patrol services are delivered by qualified medical professionals, utilise the expertise of a specialist dermatologist for skin cancer clinics and provide private, confidential medical consultations within the workplace.

For more information, call1800 103 074, email info@skinpatrol.com.au or visit www.skinpatrol.com.au