Which skin cancer service should I choose?

Unless your risk is very low, or you have recently had a full body skin check, we normally recommend you have a full body skin check by an accredited skin cancer doctor.

Even if you are only concerned about one or two spots, you might have a skin cancer that you are unaware of.

Should I have a full body skin check?

We recommend a full body skin check once each year for anyone with any of the following risk factors.

History of skin cancer

The most significant risk factor for skin cancer is a history of skin cancer or certain high risk conditions, including:

Recommendation

Yearly full body skin check.

Medical conditions and medications

Conditions and medications that affect the immune system increase skin cancer risk.

  • Immune-modifying medications used in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions. Examples include sulfasalazine, prednisolone, methotrexate, fingolimod (Gilenya) and natalizumab (Tysabri)
  • History of radiotherapy
  • Organ transplant recipient
  • Non-Hodgkins lymphoma
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia
  • HIV infection with decreased immunity

Recommendation

Yearly full body skin check.

Ultraviolet and chemical exposure

Long term and/or intense exposure to ultraviolet light and certain chemicals increases the risk of skin cancer.

  • Multiple peeling or blistering sunburns as a child or early teenager
  • Solarium/tanning bed use, any number of times, at any age
  • Smoking
  • Arc welding
  • Repeated or prolonged exposure to arsenic

Age and skin type

The risk of skin cancer increases with age. People with fairer skin have a higher risk of skin cancer when young.

  • Age >30 and skin type I (very fair skin which does not tan)
  • Age > 40 and skin type II or III (skin can tan but burns with sun exposure)
  • Age > 50 and skin type IV (olive or light brown skin which tans easily and does not usually burn)

Family history

If your first degree relatives (parents, siblings or children) have ever had a skin cancer, your own risk increased.

  • Family history of melanoma
  • Family history of non-melanoma skin cancer < 50 years old

Recommendation

Yearly full body skin check.

Multiple moles

People with more than 100 moles have a higher risk of developing melanoma. If it's hard to keep track of new and changing spots, consider full body mole mapping photography.

None of the above…

In certain circumstances, we don't routinely recommend full body skin cancer screening:

  • Children under 15
  • People with dark skin that rarely burns, as long as there are no other risk factors

This doesn't mean you can't get skin cancer; it means it's usually more cost-effective to examine your own skin. If you prefer not to do this, you are welcome to attend our clinic.

When to have mole mapping

What is mole mapping?

Mole mapping is the process of taking multiple photographs of the skin from a distance. We take 28-30 photographs to document almost your entire body surface.

The photographs are a reference for later comparison.

  • If you notice a spot of concern, you can refer to your earlier mole mapping photos to see if it was there earlier, and if it has changed.
  • At future skin check-ups, we can repeat the mole mapping photos and compare them side-by-side to detect changes you might not have noticed.
  • We have computer algorithms that help identify spots that have changed.

More information about mole mapping...

Should I have mole mapping?

If you have very high risk of melanoma and more than 100 moles, you should consider having mole mapping every year. There is evidence that mole mapping can allow earlier detection of melanoma in very high risk patients and therefore improve the chances of successful treatment.

Even if you don't have very high melanoma risk, you may choose to have mole mapping because:

  • you can't remember where your spots are and you would like to have a record of them
  • mole mapping is covered by your private health insurance policy

If you have mole mapping once, you don't necessarily need to have your entire body photographed every time you return for a skin cancer check.

We don't routinely recommend mole mapping for all patients since it hasn't been conclusively proven to increase melanoma diagnosis in low and average risk patients.

When to have a single/selected spot check

If you have just one or a couple of spots of concern, it might be appropriate to have just those spots checked.

If you have risk factors for skin cancer and haven't had a full body skin check for over a year, it's usually preferable to have your whole body checked, in case of skin cancers you aren't aware of.

Having just one or a few selected spots checked can be a suitable option if:

  • You are concerned about a new or odd-looking spot and want to have it checked quickly (We are usually able to book an appointment for a spot of concern within 1-2 working days.)
  • You've had a full body skin check recently and have noticed a new spot of concern
  • You have very low risk of skin cancer (e.g. children under 18, very dark skin plus no other risk factors) with a new or odd-looking spot