Save your skin

Write Way to HealthAustralia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world with the incidence of skin cancers being two to three times the rates in Canada, the US and the UK.

According to Cancer Council Australia, skin cancers account for around 80 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers each year, with two thirds of Australians being diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70 years of age.

Almost 2100 Australians died from skin cancer in 2011.

Despite these statistics, the positive news is that skin cancer is largely preventable and can be treated successfully, if diagnosed early.

This week (16 – 22 November 2014) marks Skin Cancer Action Week, designed to encourage Australians to take action against skin cancer by heeding the message Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.

To prevent skin cancer, all Australians are advised to:

  • Slip on sun-protective clothing
  • Slop on SPF50+ broad spectrum water resistant sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards
  • Slap on a hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears
  • Seek shade
  • Slide on sunglasses (ensure they meet the Australian standard).

Types of skin cancer

There are three types of skin cancer:

  • Basal cell carcinoma — This is the most common form of skin cancer but the least dangerous. They usually don’t spread to other parts of the body.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma — These usually appear on areas of the skin exposed to sunlight. They can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Melanoma — This is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and is the most common cancer in Australia’s 15 to 44 year olds. It is usually curable if it is detected early. However, it can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.

Signs and symptoms

The earlier you seek treatment for skin cancer, the higher the success rate, so see your health care professional if you notice any of the following:

  • A spot that looks different from others around it
  • A section of skin that appears red, scaly or thickened.
  • A new or unusual looking mole, freckle or sore
  • A spot, mole or freckle that has changed in colour, shape or size, or has become itchy or bleeds
  • The spot that has borders which are not smooth and regular but uneven or notched

Remember, protecting your skin is the best way to prevent skin cancer, so this summer make sure you stay SunSmart.

Further information:

Cancer Council Australia

Skin Cancer Action Week

Australasian College of Dermatologists

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Look after your skin this winter

hands skinThe colder months are upon us. And while some of us may be happily waving goodbye to the hot weather, others of us are not so pleased — particularly those who suffer from dry and itchy skin.

Dry and itchy skin (also known as dermatitis) can happen all year-round, but it may be worse during the cooler months.

There are two common types of dermatitis (contact dermatitis) and eczema (atopic dermatitis).

Symptoms usually include red, swollen or blistered skin, which can be intensely itchy. Sufferers usually find that certain substances or conditions can make the condition worse. Skin may also be inflamed and scaly in appearance. If the skin has been scratched, then there may be areas where blisters are weeping.

Dermatitis generally occurs when the skin is in contact with chemicals or substances that cause an allergic or irritant response. Eczema on the other hand, is a more chronic (persistent or recurrent) condition that usually presents itself in childhood and is often associated with a family history.

Either way, both conditions can be painful.

Treatment for dermatitis and eczema involve reducing the inflammation and the itching and preventing future flare ups. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you on the best treatment for your condition.

Other tips to reduce or avoid itchy skin this winter include:

  • Use soap-free products (e.g. such as hand-wash and shower gel)
  • Wash in lukewarm water
  • Use bath oils to lock in moisture
  • Avoid long-hot baths and showers which can dry out your skin further
  • Pat skin dry, rather than rub it
  • Moisturise while skin is wet to retain further moisture.

If you continue to suffer from dry, itchy skin, visit your doctor.

Further informationAustralasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy