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Book in for a skin cancer check

Friday 21 February 2020

With a long, hot, sunny summer predicted, Central West residents are being encouraged to book in for an annual skin cancer check.

Central West Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Medical Services Dr David Walker said Queenslanders had the highest risk of melanoma in the world.

“One in 14 Queenslanders will be diagnosed with a melanoma in their lifetime, with women at a slightly higher risk than men, and skin cancer claims more than 2000 deaths a year in Australia,’’ he said.

“But as we all know, skin cancers are largely preventable.

“In addition, the good news is that melanoma and other skin cancers are readily treatable if they are detected early. Everyone should have a skin check at least once a year.’’

Dr Walker said doctors in the Central West had excised 800 skin cancers during 2019.

“Given that almost all of these are in adults over 40, chances are that there are even more people with skin cancers out there,’’ he said.

“The 2018 Health of Queensland Report shows melanoma cases in Queensland in the past decade increased by 13 per cent for people aged 45-64 and by 27 per cent for those aged 65 years and older.

“While there was a 23 per cent drop in melanoma incidence rate in young people aged 15-29, it remained the most common new cancer diagnosed in this age group and the second most common cancer for people aged 30-44.’’

Dr Walker said if someone was having their first skin check, two handy tips beforehand were:

  • Check your own skin first so that you can point out spots you are concerned about,
  • On the day of your check-up, avoid using foundation, make-up and nail polish (some skin cancers even hide under your nails!),

Dr Walker said each doctor had their own routine for executing a skin check, but in general the procedure would cover all of a person’s skin with the help of a microscope called a dermatoscope.

He said a skin check could be booked in at any health facility or GP practice in the Central West.

Where a facility did not have an in-house doctor, the skin checks would be conducted during the regular visiting medical clinics to that facility.

Dr Walker said being aware of your skin could save your life.

“Getting to know your own skin and checking it regularly – for example the first of every month – is important as you will be more likely to detect any new lesions or changes to existing ones,” he said.

“Have your partner or a family member check any areas that you can’t see. If you have any concerns about or notice changes on your skin have them checked promptly by your doctor.

“Early detection, diagnosis and treatment significantly increases the likelihood that you will have a successful outcome.”

Dr Walker said people could use the ABCDE rule to detect melanoma:

A – Asymmetrical shape: Spots that lack symmetry.
B – Borders: Spots with an uneven or irregular edge/border.
C – Colour: Blotchy spots with different colours (light and dark brown, black, blue, red, white and grey).
D – Diameter: Spots that increase in size.
E – Evolution: Spots that evolve or change over time in size, shape or colour.

Dr Walker said, as well as getting regular skin checks, people needed to protect themselves against Queensland’s high ultraviolet environment all year round.

“The best approach is of course prevention, through consistent use of five sun safe behaviours, with new evidence showing we should be making sunscreen part of our everyday morning routine,” he said.

Queenslanders should protect themselves in five ways:

  • Seeking shade when possible
  • Wearing sun-safe clothing
  • Wearing a broad-brimmed hat
  • Wearing sunglasses to protect eyes
  • Applying SPF 30 or higher broad-spectrum sunscreen 20 minutes before going outside, and reapplying every two hours.

Further information about sun safety is available at:


For further information contact:

James Guthrie
Principal Media Officer, Rural and Remote Qld
Media and Communication
Department of Health
(07) 3708 5379

Last updated: 24 February 2020