More checks needed

Dr John Prior from the Parkinson Mole & Skin Cancer Clinic urging people to have regular skin checks.
Dr John Prior from the Parkinson Mole & Skin Cancer Clinic urging people to have regular skin checks. Inga Williams

NOT enough south-west residents are getting their skin checked for melanoma, a local doctor has revealed.

Parkinson Mole and Skin Cancer Clinic doctor John Prior said a professional skin check was vital after the age of 20.

"Skin cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers," he said.

"Some people are very diligent with checking their skin but most are not."

Dr Prior, who has cut out hundreds of melanoma, said people should keep an eye out for changes in the appearance of moles including colour and size.

"While it's the most commonly diagnosed, fortunately it's not as lethal as other cancers," he said.

"If picked up early it can be beaten."


Forest Lake resident Glen Hutchinson, 59, had his first melanoma removed from his forehead five years ago.

It was detected after Mr Hutchinson lost his friend to skin cancer.

"I was 54 when I decided to get my skin checked for the first time," he said.

"And I only did it because my friend had just died.

"I am incredibly lucky and have made all my children get their skin checked now."

New research reveals the incidence rates for melanoma in Australia are the highest in the world and are forecast to increase from an estimated 12,770 cases in 2011 to 17,570 cases in 2020.

The Melanoma Patients Australia figures show the average survival of metastatic melanoma patients is six months with a one year death rate of 75%.

MoleMap director and skin cancer specialist doctor Martin Haskett said despite constant public health warnings about sun exposure, a huge number of Australians weren't getting the message, or were simply ignoring it. "Australians very much have an attitude that it won't happen to them. But with the statistics as high as they are, and showing no signs of declining, people who continue to ignore specialist advice are quite literally gambling with their life," he said.

"As is the case with many forms of cancer, melanoma can often be without symptoms and, left untreated, can progress to other areas of the body. What is most frustrating from a specialist point of view is that more often than not, skin cancer is entirely preventable."

Dr Haskett said not only did Australians need to take extra care when out in the sun, they should also see a specialist as soon as they found a mole or lesion that concerned them.

He advised people to seek a specialist diagnosis immediately, preferably with a dermatologist who could refer unusual cases to a panel of peers straight away.

"It's also important to remember that moles can easily change over time, so it's vital for people to have their moles checked regularly and a clear and consistent record kept. That way changes can be easily identified and dealt with if they arise," he said.

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