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Preventing Skin Cancer

Dr John Trinidad is a general practitioner with Osana, with experience in Emergency medicine and regional New South Wales. His interests include men's health and skin cancer medicine. In this webinar, he explains why skin checks are so important, why a visual examination isn't enough and the different levels of risk for different skin types.

Why regular skin checks are so important for Australians

Around 20% of all GP visits are due to skin issues and by the age of 70yrs, 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer. Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world!

Melanomas are the most common, sinister type of skin cancer, but if diagnosed early, survival rate is 92%. The good news is that regular skin checks can catch any adverse changes to your skin in the early stages.

UVB makes up 15% of the sunlight passing through the ozone layer and causes changes in the DNA, leading to abnormal production of cells and skin damage. The risk of skin damage depends on skin type as described by the Fitzpatrick skin types — but as Dr Trindad explains, everyone in Australia is at risk.

How often should I get a skin check?

Everyone should self-check their own skin every three to six months. Those with higher risk, fair skin which burns easily or tans lightly, should have their skin checked every 12 months.

Those with higher risk due to a history of melanoma, family history of skin cancer, or many freckles and moles should have regular skin checks every six months.

If you are taking immunosuppressants, get sunburned often or are undergoing chemotherapy, a skin check is recommended every 12 months.

What happens during a skin check appointment?

A skin check appointment will take around 15 minutes in most cases, extending to 30 minutes if you are at higher risk of skin cancer. First, the doctor will take your history and family history to determine your level of risk. Then the skin check will begin, starting with any specific spots of concern, and covering all areas exposed to sunlight or with pigmentation from the scalp to soles of the feet, using a dermatoscope.

A visual check or simple "touch" check is not enough, it is important that a dermatoscope is used to identify changes under the skin. This is a magnifying glass with high-strength LEDs, which Dr John shows during the webinar, to reveal any changes in colour deep within the skin or mole.

The examining doctor will look for changes in shape, irregular shape or uneven colour. Any mole or freckle that feels firm and is growing should be checked as soon as possible. After the age of 40yrs, any new moles or changes in the skin should be checked promptly.

For any suspicious lumps, a 'punch' biopsy will be taken.

Anyone at high risk, with many freckles or moles, should see a skin specialist annually to have photographs or 'mole-mapping' to identify any changes in the skin.

How to get enough Vitamin D through safe sun exposure

Vitamin D is important for immunity, mental wellbeing, bone strength and muscle maintenance — so how can you get enough while staying sun safe?

Vitamin D is found in foods like oily fish, eggs and and spinach and helps to control the amount of calcium in the bloodstream. While you can obtain around 5-10% of your required Vitamin D through diet, the best source of Vitamin D is safe sun exposure. In spring, summer and autumn, 10-15 minutes of sun exposure when the UV levels are around 3 or below will provide you with enough Vitamin D. In winter, 30 minutes may be required, but be sure to check the UV levels first to avoid unsafe sun exposure. If your Vitamin D levels are low for any reason, talk to your general practitioner about the best options.

You can check the UV levels in your weather app or using the SunSmart app on your phone.

Your weight and age also influences your ability to absorb Vitamin D.

While sunscreen can filter around 98% of sunlight, you will still receive Vitamin D through the sunscreen.

Safe sun exposure for children

Toddlers under six months are not recommended to wear sunscreen, instead parents are recommended to use sleeves and hats for sun protection. When the UV rays are less than three, it is safe to remove a rash vest or shirt for 10 minutes so young children can absorb enough vitamin D without risking unsafe sun exposure.

Watch the webinar to hear Dr John Trindad explain how Vitamin B3 can protect from skin cancer and how to choose a good sunscreen.

Post summary: Dr John Trinidad the risks of sun exposure, how to get enough Vitamin D and why vitamin B3 is recommended for those with a history of melanoma. You'll learn your risk of skin cancer based on your skin type, how often to get checked, safe sun exposure for kids, and choosing a quality sunscreen.  

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