Top Symptoms of Skin Cancer – When to See a Doctor

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer worldwide, and Australia has one of the highest rates due to its sunny climate and high UV radiation levels. Skin cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the skin grow and multiply uncontrollably, leading to the formation of malignant tumors. Understanding the symptoms of skin cancer is crucial for early detection and effective treatment. 

Skin cancer affects the outermost layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. The primary cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources, such as tanning beds. UV radiation damages the DNA in skin cells, which can lead to mutations and the development of cancer. People with fair skin, a history of sunburns, excessive sun exposure, a family history of skin cancer, or a weakened immune system are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer.

There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. BCC is the most common type, typically appearing as a flesh-colored, pearly bump or a pinkish patch of skin. It often develops on sun-exposed areas, such as the face, neck, and arms. SCC usually presents as a scaly, red patch, a wart-like growth, or an open sore that fails to heal. Like BCC, SCC tends to occur on sun-exposed regions but can also develop on scars or chronic wounds.

Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer and has the potential to spread to other parts of the body if not detected early. It often appears as a new, unusual mole or a change in an existing mole. The ABCDE rule can help individuals identify potential signs of melanoma: asymmetry (one half is different from the other), border irregularity, color variation, diameter greater than 6 millimeters, and evolution (changes in size, shape, or color over time). However, it’s important to note that not all melanomas follow these guidelines, so any suspicious skin changes should be examined by a medical professional.

Apart from these specific symptoms, it is crucial to contact a Richmond GP if you notice any unusual skin changes that persist or worsen over time. Some general signs to watch out for include new growths, sores that don’t heal, changes in sensation, itching, tenderness, or bleeding in a mole or other skin areas. Regularly examining your skin, especially areas exposed to the sun, can help detect any abnormalities early on.

If you notice any concerning symptoms or changes in your skin, it is vital to consult a healthcare professional promptly. Dermatologists are specialized doctors who can diagnose and treat skin conditions, including skin cancer. They may perform a thorough examination of your skin, often using a dermatoscope to examine moles more closely. If a suspicious lesion is identified, a biopsy may be performed to determine if it is cancerous. Early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment and cure.

In Australia, where the incidence of skin cancer is particularly high, it is crucial to prioritize sun protection measures. These include seeking shade during peak sun hours, wearing protective clothing, applying broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30, and using sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. Additionally, regular skin checks with a dermatologist are recommended, especially for individuals at higher risk.

Ultimately, understanding the symptoms of skin cancer is essential for early detection and timely treatment. Australia’s high prevalence of skin cancer underscores the importance of being vigilant about changes in the skin and seeking medical attention when necessary. Know the symptoms and don’t be afraid to contact a medical professional if you’re concerned.