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How to Check Your Skin

and

What to Look For 


Your Skin

Skin is the largest organ in your body. If you’re the average Australian male, your skin would weigh about 6kg.


Your skin protects you against cold and regulates your body temperature. It protects you from physical and chemical injury, and keeps out nasty bugs. It waterproofs you and holds you together. It helps you feel size, shape and texture, and whether something is hot or cold, vibrating or still.


Protecting and caring for your skin is critical in the prevention and early detection of skin cancer and melanoma. Remember – skin cancer and melanoma can nearly always be treated successfully if treated early. See your doctor immediately if you have any concern.

 

How to check your skin 

 

It is important to regularly check your skin to ensure that you are aware of any changes. A great way to remember to complete this regularly is to check it at the start of each season.

 

Fortunately, performing a skin check is easy if you know what to look out for. Use the ABCDE guide below, and make it a habit to examine your skin, and your partner's skin, at the beginning of every season.

 

Follow these five steps to examine your skin:

 

 Step One:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Examine body front and back in mirror, then right and left sides, arms raised.

 Step Two:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Examine body front and back in mirror, then right and left sides, arms raised. 

 Step Three:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at back of your legs, feet and spaces between your toes and soles.

 Step Four:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at back of your legs, feet and spaces between your toes and soles. 

 Step Five:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, check your back, buttocks and genital area with a hand mirror.

 

What to look for: the ABCDEs

 

The ABCDE is a simple acronym or classification tool used by dermatologists to distinguish a superficial spreading melanoma from a normal mole: Asymmetry, Borders, Colour, Diameter and Evolving.  It provides a simple way to think about what you are looking for. The following information should help you:

 

Asymmetry: 
Unlike most benign moles, a malignant mole is often asymmetric. This means that if you draw a line through the middle of the mole, the two sides do not mirror one another. An asymmetric mole is a warning sign for melanoma. If you, or your partner, have any concerns about a mole, please see your doctor as soon as possible.

 

 

 

 Example of a symmetric benign mole.

Example of an asymmetrical malignant mole

 

 

Border:
Benign moles have smooth, even borders. Melanoma lesions often have uneven borders (ragged or notched edges).

 

 

 

An example of a mole with easily identifiable borders.

An example of a mole with difficult to distinguish borders. 

                                                       

 

Colour: 
Benign moles are usually a single shade - often a single shade of brown - whereas melanomas often contain multiple colours. Colours in melanoma lesions can include brown, black, pink, red, white or purple.

     

 

 

 This benign mole is a single shade of brown.

This malignant mole contains multiple colours - a melanoma warning sign. 

 

 

Diameter: 
Benign moles are usually less than 6mm in diameter (<6mm or 1/4”). Melanoma lesions are often more than 6mm in diameter (>6mm or 1/4”).

 

 

 

An example of a mole less than 6mm (this mole is approximately 3mm in diameter).

Finally, check your back, buttocks and genital area with a hand mirror.

 

Evolving: 

When you check your skin, or your partner's skin, look out for any signs of change in appearance. Benign moles usually do not change over time whereas melanoma lesions often grow in shape or change in height. If you notice a change in shape, colour or height of a mole see your doctor immediately. Other changes to be concerned about include bleeding, itching, or crusting.

 

 

An example of change in a malignant melanoma lesion. As you can see, this mole has more than doubled in size over the period it was photographed.

Evolution image source: http://servingnature.blogspot.com.au/

 

Vitamin D and Sunlight

Your skin is vitally important in the production of vitamin D, which is essential for bone and muscle health, and for preventing osteoporosis.

 

Most vitamin D is achieved through incidental sun exposure. Small amounts of vitamin D can also be found in foods such as fish, eggs and liver, but food only contributes a small part of any person’s vitamin D level. Vitamin D then helps with calcium absorption to keep bones healthy, reduce the risk of broken bones in falls and reduce the risk of rickets (severe vitamin D deficiency causing bone deformities). 

 

Short incidental exposure is all that is needed, therefore getting vitamin D can be achieved by exposure to the sun outside the times when the UV index is 3 or more.

 

Sunscreen and Vitamin D

Using sunscreen will NOT put you at risk of a vitamin D deficiency.

 

There has been a considerable amount of scientific research conducted on this issue. The results of this research have consistently shown that regular use of sunscreen by people does not affect their levels of vitamin D.

 

It is important to be aware of the daily UV index. In most parts of Australia some sort of sun protection is required when the UV index is 3 or more. The daily UV index can be found on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website here.

 

For more detailed information on Vitamin D and your skin, click here

 




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