Skin Cancer Checks

Skin Cancer is the most common cancer to affect Australians. The total number of new skin cancers diagnosed – both melanoma and non-melanoma – amounts to about 80% of all new cancers diagnosed each year overall*. The risk of cancer increases with age, and the number of adults seeking treatment is increasing dramatically, in line with our ageing population.

Australia has one of the highest melanoma rates in the world and two in three people are diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70*. While these statistics are alarming, skin cancer treatments have a very high success rate if detected early. These days we know there is no such thing as a ‘healthy tan’ and more than 95 per cent of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun*. If you learn your risk factor, monitor your own skin and get your skin checked regularly by a qualified skin cancer doctor then you are doing everything possible to prevent skin cancer. *Statistics from the Cancer Council of Australia – Skin Cancer webpage – updated 6/10/16

Know Your Risk Factor

You have a greater risk of developing skin cancer if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • Have a large number of moles and/or freckles
  • Have used solarium’s or tanning booths
  • Work outside
  • Have fair skin and/or red hair
  • Have had a diagnosis of Melanoma or other skin cancer in the past
  • Have a family history of Melanoma or other skin cancer
  • If you have ever suffered sunburn
  • If you are taking immunosuppressive medications

Did you know…?

  • Skin cancer is not a seasonal condition. It can develop any time of the year, including winter.
  • Skin cancers including melanomas can develop anywhere, including areas that are usually covered by clothing or hair.
  • A small number of melanomas are pink or lack pigment, although most melanomas are either black or brown.
  • Early melanomas are often not raised and not easily felt with the hand, so it is important that you look at the skin and do not rely on how it feels.

Some changes in skin lesions are so microscopic they are invisible to the naked eye so it is important to get them checked by a skin cancer doctor.

Scan Your Skin

You, your partner and your family will know better than anyone else if something on your skin is new or changing – these are two important early warning signs. Become familiar with your spots and moles, and check your skin regularly. The Skin Cancer College Australasia promotes a simple, but very effective mantra: SCAN Your Skin. SCAN means look for a spot or mole that is…

Sore, scaly, itchy, bleeding, tender and doesn’t heal within six weeks.

Changing in appearance, size, shape or colour.

Abnormal: Looks different, feels different, or stands out when compared to others.

New: Most melanomas – and all other skin cancers – arise this way. It is important to check your face, neck, ears and back as well as the front and back of the torso and buttocks, arms, legs, hands (including palms), feet (including soles), and between your fingers and toes (including nails), groin, genital areas and scalp.

It may be helpful to use a hand mirror. To check areas that you cannot see you may want to ask you partner or a person that you trust to check you. Visually scan your skin every 2-3 months because some skin cancers can grow fast over weeks or months.

Get Your Skin Checked

A general skin check is recommended with your skin cancer doctor:

  • Once per year for those with no history of skin cancer or concerns
  • Every 2 years if you are under the age of 18
  • Every 6 months if you have a history of skin cancer
  • Every 3 months if you have had a melanoma

This is a guide only. Once your skin cancer doctor has assessed your risk factors they will advise if they want to see you more or less than what is listed above. At the Austin Clinic all of our Skin Cancer Doctors are accredited with the Skin Cancer College of Australasia, hold Masters in Skin Cancer and Diplomas in Dermatology. Our doctors always use Dermatoscopes when conducting skin checks and use our state of the art Mole Map Photographic Imaging System to monitor suspicious lesions. This means that when you come back for a review or your next skin check we can show you exactly which lesions have changed and by how they have changed. This system allows for much closer monitoring and much more exact and earlier diagnosis and prevention of skin cancers.

Checklist for picking a Skin Cancer Doctor:

  • Check that they have been practicing skin cancer medicine for a while
  • That they use a Dermatoscope to check your skin – this is a little hand help diagnostic tool with a magnifying lense that enables them to see skin lesions properly
  • That they are registered with the Skin Cancer College of Australasia – this means they have done the correct training to be able to fully assess your skin
  • If you don’t live close by and want to find a skin cancer doctor in your area the Skin Cancer College of Australasia keeps a record of all accredited doctors in Australia. Visit the following website to find your closest one

The most effective management of skin cancer is early detection and treatment. The Austin Clinic is dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers. It offers local, cost-effective access to advanced knowledge, diagnostic techniques, and treatment options. You, however, are the person most familiar with your skin, so SCAN your skin thoroughly and repeat often. It’s a simple habit to get into, and one that might save your life.


Q: How long does a skin check take?

A: A thorough skin check can take 20 – 45 minutes depending on your history, risk factors and the number of lesions there are to check. This includes some time for the doctor to discuss your medical history – which can have an impact on your risk of developing skin cancer.

Q: What equipment does the doctor use?

A: A doctor who has been trained to use a dermatoscope will take a close up look at any spots of concern to assist in a diagnosis. A dermatoscope is a bit like a torch with a magnifying glass attached to the end. Using a dermatoscope is painless, and greatly assists the doctor in deciding if a spot or mole is of concern. If uncertain, the doctor may take a dermatoscopic photograph of a spot or mole using our Molemap photographic system, so it can be monitored over time for any changes.

Q: What happens if the doctor finds a lesion or spot which could be a skin cancer?

A: Your doctor will tell you straight away if you have any moles or spots which require testing. To test the mole or spot the doctor will either take a small biopsy (sample) of it, or completely excise (cut out) the spot of concern – under local anaesthetic of course. In most cases another appointment will be made to remove the abnormal mole or spot. This type of minor surgery can be carried out at our clinic, under local anaesthetic. After it is removed, the mole or spot is sent to a pathology laboratory for testing. Receiving the test results can take several days.

Q: What happens if skin cancer is found?

A: In most cases, when found early, skin cancer can be easily and successfully treated with surgery, topical treatments or Photodynamic Therapy (PDT). Most skin cancers are cured once they are removed. Other non-surgical treatments such as topical creams, radiotherapy, or Photodynamic therapy may be used but this will depend on the type of skin cancer found.

Q: What happens after the skin check?

A: Depending on your level of risk for developing skin cancer, your doctor may recommend regular follow up skin checks. The frequency for follow up skin checks can vary from every few months, to once every year or two. At the Austin Clinic we have a system in place to send you a skin check reminder if you would like, but it is also a good idea to keep your own record of when a follow up skin check is due.

Helpful Resources:

Scan You Skin

Skin Cancer College of Australasia

Cancer Council Australia