Dr Nick Cooper encourages locals to get checked for skin cancer.
Dr Nick Cooper encourages locals to get checked for skin cancer. Adam Hourigan

Prevention better than treatment for skin cancer

FOR Ochre Health's Dr Nick Cooper, the best form of protection from skin cancer comes down to one simple thing.

Prevention.

"There's no doubt the treatment of melanoma is improving considerably, and the survival rates are getting better," he said.

"Try and stay in the shade, wear sun protective clothing, sunglasses - because you can get melanomas in the eye, sunscreen and apply it regularly, especially if you've been in the water.

"Even on overcast days when you think you'll be OK. You think there's cloud cover but you can still get burned."

Dr Cooper said that it was important to remain vigilant, and encouraged people if they had partner to get them to check for any changes.

"But if you can't do that, virtually every GP will be able to do a skin cancer check," he said.

"Make sure you get a 30 minute slot, and ideally your doctor should have a dermatoscope, which is really one of the ways you can diagnose melanoma to be really certain."

While he said that many people routinely checked arms, back, head and neck, as they were common areas that were exposed to the sun, cancers could also appear in less obvious places.

"One of the common sites for melanoma is the back of the calves, especially in women because they wear skirts, but also in men who wear shorts," he said.

It was not just the well known melanoma that can cause problems, with basal-cell carcinomas, and squamous cell carcinoma also potentially deadly.

"The basal cells get bigger and bigger, and tend not to cause too much trouble unless they get too big, but the squamous cell carcinoma have the potential certainly, if they get into your head and neck to cause problems and even be fatal," he said.

"Melanoma is the obvious one, but anything that appears to be new, and changing or growing, you need to go to your GP. Especially with the intensity of the sun here."