Dr Stephen Rigby is urging people to get regular skin checks.
Dr Stephen Rigby is urging people to get regular skin checks. Christopher Chan

Act now to beat skin cancer

QUEENSLANDERS risk becoming a skin cancer statistic every day but the Gladstone Central Medical Centre has seen an astonishing number of cases recently, even for the Sunshine State.

Gladstone Central Medical Centre medical director Stephen Rigby said in just the past seven weeks he had diagnosed 15 patients with melanoma.

"To diagnose that many in that amount of time is extraordinary," Dr Rigby said.

However Dr Rigby stressed the point that he was not aiming to alarm people about melanoma but raise awareness about the importance of skin screening.

"They were all early melanomas, level one or level two so they are all curable," he said.

Dr Rigby said it was a common trend in recent times for people to be worried about the risk of skin cancer and think if they were diagnosed with a melanoma they were doomed.

However he said that did not necessarily need to be the case.

"If people have their regular skin checks they have potentially fatal skin cancers diagnosed early and we cure them," he said.

He said your average person should be getting their skin checked by a professional at least every 12 months and at-risk people, such as people with fair skin, a family history or who were exposed to high amounts of sun during childhood, should get their skin checked every six months.

People who have been diagnosed with melanoma before are also at a 13% higher risk to contract the disease again.

"I've removed five different melanomas from one patient so I check him every three months," Dr Rigby said.

People should also perform their own skin examinations once a month Dr Rigby said.

He said what most people did not realise was you did not just get melanoma from sun exposure so it was important to check areas of your body that were not often exposed to the sun like the bottoms of your feet and your genitals.

 

Prevention

Although you should practise sun safety to reduce your risk of melanoma, Dr Rigby said to avoid significant sun exposure in children aged under eight.

Also avoid exposure when the UV rating is at its most extreme.

Look for

People should self-examine their skin once a month. Look for:

  • Moles you don't think you have seen before
  • An existing mole that has changes
  • A mole that has become raised
  • A mole that has become more irregular
  • A mole that has changed in colour
  • A mole that is irritating or become ulcerated

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