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Wrap up warm this winter – but undress skin matters

May 2, 2022

The weather’s cooling down but don’t keep your skin under wraps this season. When it comes to targeting skin cancer and suspicious lesions, there’s no better time to focus on skin matters than when summer turns a corner.

Why? Because generally across summer – with increased sun exposure – we have more activity going on with our skin and it can be harder to identify skin lesions that require greater attention. When the weather cools off, moles and potential skin cancers can demonstrate fewer signs of sun exposure – so it’s a good time to have your skin professionally checked and a mole map done.

Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Because we layer up in winter, we’re also less likely to notice changes in moles – or any new moles – and unusual skin behaviour.

In New Zealand, the most common skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma – which is typically slow growing – but squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma can grow rapidly. And, New Zealand has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world – near 2,500 new melanoma cases are diagnosed every year Down Under.

“The risk of dying from melanoma is intrinsically related to the depth of the cancer – and melanoma can strike atany age,” explains Adam Bialostocki, Bay Plastic Surgery's cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon. “The deeper the tumour growth, the greater the risk of spread. Melanoma can present itself on any part of the body and spread rapidly too – it can be become invasive within three months – which is why skin specialists are so adept at examining all hidden areas.”

And for those of us of relying on our family genes to keep us cancer free, there’s no guarantee. Researchers at Cornell have revealed that certain people have genetic mutations – accumulated in melanocyte stem cells – which can become cells where cancer originates. In short, everything could be fine, until you got sunburnt – triggering those cells.

“Skin checks aren’t destined to be a summertime ritual – they’re something that should be conducted regularly year-round,” advises Adam. “Self-checking for any new spots or changing molesis a must too, so enlisting an experienced team to guide you through the correct measures and means to stay skin aware is key.”

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