Depositphotos_72567563_m-2015When is a freckle not a freckle?

Imagine this: you’ve a freckle on your arm. It seems normal – you figure you live in Australia and everyone has some freckles, don’t they? So you don’t take much notice of it. But over time, it starts to grow darker, maybe it changes shape or gets bigger, until it’s more visible than before. What should you do?

The best thing you can do at that point is schedule an appointment with a skin cancer specialist or clinic. Because when a freckle changes, there’s a distinct possibility that it could be skin cancer.

Now before you get too worried, if you’ve spotted it early, the danger it poses to your health is likely to be minimal and even if there is something to be looked after, it will usually be taken care of pretty promptly.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said if you ignore it. That’s when you can end up with a more serious problem on your hands.

Of course, it may turn out to be nothing more than a freckle that has darkened up because of your Saturday wandering along an amazing bush track or because you spent three hours gardening bathed in sunshine from all this wonderful weather we’ve recently (slathered with SPF50+ and a hat of course).

However, it is always better to be safe. If any freckle (or mole) anywhere on your body starts to look different, it’s a good idea to get it checked out.

Types of skin cancers

If you find a spot or a lump, below is a basic checklist for figuring out which type of skin cancer it could be. It’s important not to self diagnose – as you might inadvertently put yourself at risk. Your doctor must be the one to diagnose your condition (if there is one).

skin cancer. Basal-cell carcinoma or basal cell cancer (BCC). Schematic representation of skin. Melanocytes are also present and serve as the source cell for melanoma. The separation between epidermis and dermis occurs at the basement membrane zone.

Basal cell carcinoma – red, pale or pearly in colour, appears as a lump or dry, scaly area. It may ulcerate or fail to completely heal, and grows slowly on areas often exposed to the sun.

Squamous cell carcinoma – a thick, red and scaly spot that may bleed easily, crust or ulcerate. It grows over some months, on areas often exposed to the sun, and is most likely to occur in people over 50 years of age.

Actinic keratosis – these are pre-cancerous lesions that develop on areas that are often exposed to the sun. They can be scaly or crusty, and often feel like a small patch of sandpaper.

Melanoma or skin cancerMelanoma – appears as a new spot or an existing spot that changes in colour, size or shape. Unlike other types of skin cancer, if left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body. It can also appear on skin not normally exposed to the sun. 20% of melanomas have little or no pigment and appear predominantly red.

Nodular melanoma – raised and even in colour, and are usually red, pink, brown or black. These cancers grow quickly, and look different to normal melanomas. They are firm and dome-shaped, and after a while they begin to bleed and crust.

 About 25% of melanomas (the skin cancer with the highest rates of mortality) appear on existing spots, so it’s vital you notice of how your spots change over time.

If you’ve got fair skin – you’re at risk.

Your risk of skin cancer is highly dependent on your skin type. If you have fairer skin, it is imperative that you have your skin checked regularly, as you have higher exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and your skin is likely to burn more quickly. And that puts you at greater risk of developing skin cancer.

Check your risk type.

 If you have any questions about any changes you’ve noticed on your skin recently, you can call us on 02 9223 1608 or you can send us your phone number or email via the form below and we’ll get in touch.

Northern Beaches

Building Q1, Level 2, Suite 9, 4 Daydream St, Warriewood

Appointment availability:
 Monday – Friday
Appointment times: 8.30am-5.00pm
Phone: 02 9999 0336
Fax: 02 9999 0337

Sydney City

L16, 109 Pitt St, Sydney

Appointment availability: Mondays & Thursday Only
Appointment times: 8.30 am - 5:30 pm
Phone: 02 9223 1608