The 7 signs you may have increased risk of skin cancer

Dr Terence Poon|Skin cancer
19 February 2019

As Sydney continues to wade through hot summer days, here at the clinic, we’re always aware that our gorgeous Aussie sun also comes with a down side – skin cancer risk.

In this article, we outline the seven signs that indicate increased skin cancer risk.

1. Skin tone 

If you have pale skin, pale eyes and fair hair you are more susceptible to sun damage, which is a precursor to skin cancer. The less protective melanin that you have in your skin the less natural protection your skin has against the UV rays that damage skin cells. It’s extremely important that people with pale skin tone have regular skin checks so that any signs of skin cancer can be dealt with early.

2. Moles on your skin

Have you ever counted the number of moles on your skin? It may sound a bit crazy (specially if you’ve got a lot of them) but it’s a good, general measure of skin cancer risk. If you have more than 50 moles, you’re in the high risk category.

While most moles are completely harmless, some may turn cancerous over time. So getting your moles checked regularly is very  important.

3. Childhood sunburn

Most people who grew up in Australia experienced some form of sunburn as a kid.

Just one blistering sunburn as a child doubles your risk of melanoma later in life. That’s a pretty scary statistic!

If you fall into this category, you’re again in the high risk of skin cancer category and should be getting regular skin checks.

4. Family history of skin cancer

As with all cancers, skin cancer has a genetic component.

If you have a personal or family history of skin cancer, this increases your risk of skin cancer.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, if your family has skin cancer cases, minimise your risk by having regular skin checks and be sun smart, use a hat, sunscreen, glasses and clothing to protect your skin from the sun.

5. Skin changes

If you notice any changes to your skin – marks, freckles, moles, raw sores that don’t heal – you should seek medical advice immediately.

Skin changes are one of the primary symptoms of skin cancer and the need for prompt medical attention can’t be overstated. The earlier you catch a skin cancer, the better the outcomes. So don’t delay if you, your partner or someone who knows you well, notices a change on your skin.

6. Where you grew up

We’ve already mentioned the increased risk of skin cancer that people growing up in Australia experience.

But if you grew up on the equator, you’re also at higher risk. Generally, if you grow up in these regions, you are exposed to more UV light than others, and when that happens in your earlier years, you have an increased risk of sun damage and skin cancer as an adult.

7. You don’t use sunscreen

Are you a sunscreen dodger?

People who avoid wearing sunscreen are more likely to sustain skin damage from the sun’s UV radiation, which means they have a greater risk of developing skin cancer.

Tips for avoiding skin cancer and sun damage

In case you haven’t picked it up yet, avoiding sun damage is the best way to reduce your cancer risk.

  • Always use an SPF 50+ sunscreen when you’re outside, and reapply regularly and specially after swimming
  • Wear a hat, preferably with a wide brim that covers your face and neck
  • Wear long sleeves to protect your arms from the midday sun
  • Get out of the sun between the hours of 11am and 3pm. Just a few minutes of unprotected sun exposure can begin to damage skin cells in the Australian summertime. Avoiding the hottest part of the day, when the sun is strongest, is the easiest way to protect yourself from the sun damage that can cause skin cancer.

You can read more about skin cancer and its treatments here.

Ready to get your skin checked? We understand. Call our receptionists now to make an appointment today on (02) 9953 9522.


Written by Dr Terence Poon.