Skin cancer prevention
Get to know your skin for the early detection and prevention of skin cancer.
What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops from the skin’s pigment cells, known as melanocytes. When the melanocytes combine, they create freckles or moles, most of which are perfectly safe. However, in some cases, melanocytes expand into the lower layers of the skin, and can become a melanoma.
The main cause of melanoma is overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation – like sunlight – although it can occur anywhere on the skin, including places that receive little or no sun exposure, like the soles of your feet or even inside the mouth.*
People with fair or freckled skin, lots of moles, a history of sunburn in childhood or adolescence, or a family history of melanoma may be more at risk.
Melanoma can grow quickly. Untreated, it can spread deeper into the skin and be carried to other parts of the body (like the lungs, liver and brain) via lymph or blood vessels.
How to get a skin check
It’s important to talk to your GP about your skin type and ask for advice on early detection. They can tell you how frequently you should be getting professional skin checks to complement your regular self-checks.
You can visit your regular GP, dermatologist or a skin cancer clinic for a professional skin check.
In addition to professional skin checks, regular self-checks maximise your chances of detecting melanoma early.
Sun-smart tips to protect your skin
When the UV is 3 or higher, use a combination of these measures to protect your skin.
Wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible. The best protection comes from closely woven fabrics. For clothes designed for sun protection, the higher the UPF (ultraviolet protection factor), the greater the protection.
Apply a water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30+ or higher at least 20 minutes before going outside, as it takes this long to sink into the skin. Reapply every two hours, after swimming and after any activity that causes you to sweat or rub the sunscreen off.
Wear a broad-brimmed hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears.
Use shade from trees, umbrellas, buildings or any type of canopy. Be aware that UV radiation is reflective and bounces off surfaces such as concrete, snow, water, soil and sand, causing sun damage even when you think you’re shaded.
Wear sunglasses that meet the Australian and New Zealand standard AS/NZS 1067:2003 and have an EPF (eye protection factor) of 10. Close-fitting, wrap-around styles are best.
Visit Cancer Council Victoria's SunSmart website for more information.
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* Melanoma INstitute of Australia, 2019. WHAT IS MELANOMA?