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Spot the difference: Moles or melanomas?

Checking your moles is as easy ABC...DEFG.

Growing up in our sunburnt country, we’re taught from an early age of the risks associated with sun exposure; from premature ageing to vision damage, and of course, skin cancer, with two in three Australians predicted to be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70.

Recently, new guidelines for assessing moles were released, as statistics revealed 20% of skin cancers were not detected by the obvious signs due to being paler and less obvious in nature. Read on to find out more about the new guidelines and how they affect you.

MORE: 6 ways to reduce cancer risk in women

Learning to spot the difference

According to Cancer Council Australia, 95% of skin cancers can be successfully treated if detected early. As a first point of call, you can perform your own skin check using the ‘ABCD EFG method’ below. If you notice any of the following symptoms in your moles, arrange a visit with your doctor.  

Asymmetry: One half of your spot doesn’t match the other

Border: The edge of your spot is spreading or ragged

Colour: Your spot is made up of a number of different colours

Diameter: Your spot is growing wider

Elevation: Your spot has changed in size, shape, colour, or elevation

Firmness: Your spot becomes firmer to touch over time

Growth: Your spot has been growing

MORE: Are you at risk of melanoma?

Commenting on the importance of mole checks, Skin & Cancer Foundation Inc’s Director of Education,  Associate Professor Alvin Chong, said:

“Getting familiar with your own skin could save your life. The sooner skin cancer can be identified and treated, the better the chance of a positive outcome. It’s a good idea to perform your own skin check every three months, or as recommended by your doctor. It’s also important to remember that most skin cancers can be prevented by using good sun protection and, if your skin protection habits have been slack, it’s never too late to improve those habits, and your chances, no matter how old you are.”

Protecting your skin

Are you familiar with the SunSmart five levels of sun protection? If not, you should be! Following these five steps will help protect your skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun. If you need a quick refresher, they are:

  • Slip on some clothing
  • Slop on some sunscreen
  • Slap on a hat
  • Seek shade
  • Slide on sunglasses

It’s important to note that the more you’ve been overexposed to UV rays – especially if you were sunburnt as a child – the higher your risk of melanoma. So be vigilant in protecting your skin when you’re out in the sun.

Learn more about common cancers in Australia, including risks, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, click here.

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