According to Canstar Blue’s most recent sunscreen research, 1 in 2 Queenslanders get regular mole checks to prevent skin cancer going unnoticed, but the rest of Australia is falling behind, with only 2 in 5 Australians overall getting regular checks.
However, 41% of men who use self-tanning products say that they deliberately avoid getting their moles checked. And 70% of women who use self-tanning products say that they keep meaning to get a mole check but other things get in the way.
It’s important to get your moles checked regularly because, as the Queensland Government “at risk skin type” tool points out, the more moles and freckles someone has, the higher the risk is that one of these ‘sun spots’ will develop into a melanoma.
What is a mole check and where can you get one?
A mole check involves examining the size, shape, colour and other aspects of any mole, freckle, or blemish on your skin.
A mole check can be done by any GP, or it can be done at a specialist skin clinic by a dermatologist. You can also go to the specialist Australian Skin Cancer Clinics found in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, and Western Australia. These specialists can all be bulk-billed under Medicare if you get a referral to see them from your GP.
If the doctor suspects they have found a skin cancer, they will perform a quick and simple biopsy. This involves using local anaesthetic on the area and cutting off a small part of the mole. The part of the mole is sent to a pathologist and the results are usually available in a week’s time.
How often should you get a mole check?
Everyone should check their own moles at least every 3 months. There are even apps available on your smartphone that can help you take a picture of your mole and compare it to cancerous moles. If you can, you should ask your parents and grandparents whether they ever had any skin cancers.
If you have developed any new moles or you have a family history of skin cancer, you should get regular mole checks from your GP or dermatologist more often. You should also check your own moles at least once a month to make sure you notice any changes in size or colour.
Where should I look?
You will need to make sure you check absolutely every patch of your skin, so you might need a mirror or camera to see your back, or get someone to help you. You even need to check between your toes, under your fingernails, the soles of your feet and the backs of your knees.
Melanomas can be found anywhere on the body, but are most commonly found on the back for men and the lower legs for women.
What does a cancerous mole look and feel like?
You should see a doctor and get a mole check straight away if you have any moles that fit the ABCDEs of skin cancer:
- Asymmetry: One half of the mole is a different shape to the other half.
- Border: The edges of the mole are smudgy, ragged or irregular.
- Colour: The mole has different colours in it, such as black, red, pink, white or even blue.
- Diameter: The mole is larger than the others, or the mole is wider than a pencil.
- Evolving: The mole looks different to the others, or the mole is growing, changing shape, or changing colour.
Other things to watch out for are if the mole is:
- A sore that doesn’t heal
Should I be worried?
The vast majority of moles and freckles are not cancerous, so you don’t need to be anxious about getting a mole check.
Most skin cancers can be found early and treated successfully. Nearly everyone diagnosed with skin cancer will be cured through a simple, successful treatment.
If you are told you have skin cancer, you might feel different emotions such as shock. If you feel distressing emotions, you can talk to your doctor about it or call the Cancer Council on 13 11 20.
Remember, your mole might be nothing to worry about, but better safe than sorry! Don’t put it off. Book a mole check with your doctor today.