Skin cancer is a major public health issue in Australia and Queensland records the highest rates of melanocytic and non-melanocytic skin cancer (NMSC) in the world.

Over 10,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year in Australia, with 25 percent of those Queensland cases. Due to its prevalence, authorities have often called skin cancer a Queensland disease.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone practice monthly head-to-toe self examination of their skin, so that they can find any new or changing lesions that might be cancerous or precancerous. Skin cancer found early can usually be successfully treated. However if left untreated, skin cancer can be fatal.

Checking For Skin Cancer

Many melanomas are discovered by people themselves or by a family member so it’s important to get to know your skin and what is normal for you so changes will be quickly noticed.

Performed regularly, doing self examinations can alert you to changes in your skin and help in the early detection of skin cancer. A self examination should be done often enough to become a habit, but not so often as to feel like a bother. For most people, once a month is ideal.

Step By Step Self Examination

You must first find a room with good light and a full length mirror. If you are on your own have a hand-held mirror to check difficult to see areas.

Second, follow these self examination steps from the Skin Cancer Foundation.

1. Examine your face, especially the nose, lips, mouth, and ears – front and back. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view.

2. Thoroughly inspect your scalp, using a blow dryer and mirror to expose each section to view. Get a friend or family member to help, if you can.

3. Check your hands carefully: palms and backs, between the fingers and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both front and back of your forearms.

4. Standing in front of the full-length mirror, begin at the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms. Don’t forget the underarms

5. Next focus on the neck, chest, and torso. Women should lift breasts to view the underside.

6. With your back to the full-length mirror, use the hand mirror to inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back, and any part of the back of your upper arms you could not view in step 4.

7. Still using both mirrors, scan your lower back, buttocks, and backs of both legs.

8. Sit down; prop each leg in turn on the other stool or chair. Use the hand mirror to examine the genitals. Check front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin, ankles, tops of feet, between toes and under toenails. Examine soles of feet and heels.

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