GP Skin Check Clinic

Skin Checks

Stay Healthy

Skin cancer kills nearly 2,000 Australians each year – more than the national road toll – and two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70.

At Skin Lab, we recommend that all of our patients become familiar with and check their skin regularly. This can help detect changes and irregularities early to reduce the risk of missing a serious skin cancer.

Patients are encouraged to consult with their GP for a skin check if they notice changes, or when there is evidence of sun damage. For patients without access to their regular GP for this service, Skin Lab provides a regular GP Skin Check Clinic.

Dr Grant Elson is a General Practitioner with a passion for skin-related medicine. He completed a Certificate in Practical Dermoscopy through the Australian College of Dermatologists to further his skills and enjoys the preventative approach to health that skin checks foster.

UV Exposure and Skin Cancer

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the main cause of skin cancer. UV damage also causes sunburn, tanning, premature ageing and eye damage.

UV radiation is not like the sun’s light or heat, which we can see and feel. This means we usually don’t notice UV damage till it’s too late. The UV level can be as high on a cold or cloudy day as it is on a scorching hot day.

Evidence shows that careful sun protection at any time of life reduces the number of skin cancers This is particularly important in people with fair skin, who burn easily, or are immunosuppressed; and in those who had a previous skin cancer.

Checking for skin cancer

Skin cancers can be successfully treated with early detection. Without treatment, however, skin cancer can be deadly.

What are the most common types of skin cancer?

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common but least dangerous form of keratinocyte (non-melanoma) skin cancer.

BCC’s vary in appearance from small, raised, red or pearly lesions, through to flat, lesions with an indistinct margin. They do not spread, but are locally invasive and destructive to tissue.

While BCCs are often suspected by their clinical appearance and history, the diagnosis and subtype is generally confirmed by diagnostic biopsy or following excision.

Treatment depends on subtype, size and location, the number to be treated, and patient factors such as age and general health. Options may include a combination of surgical and non-surgical options.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a less common form of keratinocyte skin cancer, that is invasive and can spread if left untreated.

SCCs commonly present as enlarging scaly lumps, within patches of pre-existing sun damage, including solar or actinic keratoses and intraepidermal carcinoma (SCC in-situ).

They tend to grow over weeks to months, may ulcerate, and are often tender or painful. Common locations are on sun-exposed sites, particularly the face, lips, ears, hands, forearms and lower legs.

Treatment is mainly surgical.

Melanoma

Melanoma is one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer. Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates in the world.

About 75% of melanoma arise from otherwise normal skin, while 25% appear within an existing mole. Melanomas can occur anywhere on the body, not only in areas that are exposed to the sun.

Most commonly, the first sign of a melanoma is a changing pigmented lesion. Features to look out for are:

ABCDE signs:
Asymmetry of shape
Border irregularity (ill-defined margin)
Colour variation and Change
Different (formerly diameter)
Evolving (enlarging, changing)

People at increased risk of melanoma should undergo regular specialist dermatologist skin checks or formalised photographic skin mapping (eg. Molemap™).

Risk factors include:

  • Previous invasive melanoma, melanoma in-situ or keratocyte skin cancer
  • Large number of melanocytic naevi (moles)
  • Multiple (>5) atypical naevi (large or histologically dysplastic moles)
  • Strong family history of melanoma with 2 or more first-degree relatives affected
  • Pale skin that burns easily

Surgery is always indicated for melanoma as it can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated, potentially leading to illness or death.

With melanoma, early detection is the key. Anyone who notices a new lesion or a changing lesion should have it checked.

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