Posted by Dr Lily Vrtik
on 30 March 2015
Australia has the highest incidence of Skin Cancers, and unfortunately, Queensland has the most number of cases in Australia. Risks of skin cancer include: Skin Type, Sun Exposure, Sun Protection, Age, Family History and Smoking history.
Skin types are typically classified into the Fitzpatrick scale:
Type I (scores 06) Pale white; blond or red hair; blue eyes; freckles Always burns, never tans
Type II (scores 713) White; fair; blond or red hair; blue, green, or hazel eyes Usually burns, tans minimally
Type III (scores 1420) Cream white; fair with any hair or eye color; quite common Sometimes mild burn, tans uniformly
Type IV (scores 2127) Moderate brown; typical Mediterranean skin tone Rarely burns, always tans well
Type V (scores 2834) Dark brown; Middle Eastern skin types Very rarely burns, tans very easily
Type VI (scores 35+) Deeply pigmented dark brown to black Never burns, tans very easily
If you are type I or II, you have a greater risk of developing skin cancers, and usually earlier in life. Sun Exposure is cumulative risk, that is, the more sun exposure you have had over time, the more likely you will develop a skin cancer. Studies have shown that most of the damage is done during the earlier years of one's life, as the risk of developing skin cancers increases with the amount of sun exposure during a person's childhood and teenage years. Both physical protection (clothing and hats) as well as chemical protection (sun-screen) are essential to prevent development of skin cancers. Obviously, it is best practised at an early age, but use of sun protection later in life may slow the onset of skin cancers. Toxins in smoking impedes cell repair and cell regeneration, thus can contribute to cancer development, including skin cancers. Skin cancers in smokers are often more aggressive, and occur in a younger age group. Not to mention, wound healing from your skin cancer surgery can be negatively affected by smoking.
Everybody who lives in Australia should be worried about skin cancers. Regular skin checks is essential, especially for those with fair skin, a history of sun exposure during their youth or a family history of skin cancers. Twelve monthly skin checks are recommended for everyone, which should be increased to six monthly if you have had a history of skin cancer in the past. Skin checks can be done by your regular family doctor, GP's with special interest in skin cancers, or a dermatologist. Talk to your GP for a recommendation.