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Dr Duncan

Autumn is time to check your skin

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It’s autumn and the leaves are starting to think about falling from the trees, the rain is teasing us with enticing showers after such a long dry spell, all of  which may make is seem odd to be writing about skin cancers now that summer is just about over.

The Slip Slop Slap and Cover up message is a vitally important one and needs to be shouted out loud and clear at the start of every summer, but at heart, it’s a preventative message whose aim is to stop us from suffering from skin cancers later on. But unfortunately the statistics still show that skin cancers are still the most common cancers that doctors see here in Australia, and therefore they still need to be treated. 

And now is a great time to ask about any treatment that might be needed for skin cancers and sun damaged skin.

Our specialists have a great array of treatments for all types of sun damaged skin, from creams and lotions, to superficial x-ray therapy and local excisions all the way to high tech targeted therapy for certain stages of melanoma. And somewhere in the middle will be those who need the attention of a plastic surgeon for skin grafts and flap rotations for the bigger lesions.

To give you some idea of what you should be looking for, here are some images of the various types of sun related skin damage that can be found on our skin:

Solar keratosis
This is a Solar Keratosis, which means thickened skin cause by solar radiation damage.

Basal cell 
This is a Basal Cell Carcinoma or BCC.

Squamous Cell 
This is a Squamous Cell Carcinoma or SCC.

SMalignant melanoma 
and this is a Malignant Melanoma.

The vast majority of people who develop skin cancers will be over the age of 30 - but melanomas in particular are no respecter of age or gender, so if you have a mole and have any questions about it, then ask early! So autumn is a great time for everyone to check their skin and see their GP or specialist to get any new spots checked - and this goes especially for the male of our species!
 
It appears that older men are not particularly good at protecting their skin from the sun and are at greater risk of developing skin cancer according to reports in the medical literature. The good news is that early detection and treatment of melanomas - before they have spread to the lymph glands - has a 98% survival rate at 5 years, which in anyone’s book is pretty good!

So for all of those testosterone charged senior males who still know where their abdominal muscles are and love to flex them, here’s something to think about: over the age of about 60 you're going to lose subcutaneous fat and your skin is going to become more fragile. And that means that it’s going to need all the help you can give it. Too much UV rays will damage the skin further and raise the real risks of developing sun related cancers. 

And all of us should perhaps think of our skin in the following way: imagine a bucket, and once you've filled that bucket with water, it can't take any more. The skin is your bucket and the sun is the water and by the time you've got to 60 you will almost certainly have filled your bucket and you need to turn the tap off, in other words avoid the sun's powerful rays.

So go outside and enjoy the great outdoors before 10am and after 4.00pm - even better, check the UV index at http://www.bom.gov.au/wa/uv/index.shtml and see what the UV index is for your area. If you have to go out in between those times make sure that you cover up. Get into the habit of putting sunblock on exposed skin after you've brushed your teeth in the morning - summer and winter. Wear a hat with a wide brim: there are some really good ones around so take time to browse the shelves until you find one that makes you smile! Wear long sleeved skirts and slacks and if you're invited out during the day always try to find a good spot in the shade - you'll meet a lot of other interesting people there!
And if you notice something on your skin that has changed shape or colour, or bleeds easily, then please don't ignore it - get it checked by a professional and not your golfing buddy!

The sun is the most powerful structure in our planetary life and we should treat it with the greatest of respect - just like you'd like to be treated yourself!



Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. More articles here. For more information on health care and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at www.hbf.com.au.

The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.

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