Dr Mary Boyling's guide to skin cancer checks

Dr Mary Boyling talks us through skin cancer checks and why they’re so important.

Each year, about 3,000 people in NSW are diagnosed with melanoma and the Hunter Region has one of the highest incidences of Melanoma in the world. We have a wonderful outdoor lifestyle here, but people aren't doing all they can to protect themselves from the sun. Skin cancer can affect men and women at any time of the year which is why it’s essential to check your own skin every three months. By regularly checking your own skin, you may notice moles that are changing as well as identifying new moles. The earlier you find a cancerous mole, the easier the treatment and the better the outcomes.

With a bit of practice most people can complete a whole-body skin check in about 15 minutes. It’s important to undress completely and make sure you have good lighting. Use a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror to check the areas you can’t see easily, or ask a family member or friend to help. Make sure you check your entire body as skin cancers can sometimes occur in parts of the body not exposed to the sun, for example the soles of the feet, between the fingers and toes and under the nails.

To spot either melanomas or non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, take note of any new moles or growths, and any existing spots that begin to grow or change significantly in any other way.  Lesions that change, itch, bleed, or don't heal should be investigated further.


The A.B.C.D. rule for skin cancer checks
The A.B.C.D. rule is a well-established guide for identifying cancerous moles. Melanoma can have any one of the following features:
A is for Asymmetry - Look for spots that lack symmetry. That is, if a line was drawn through the middle, the two sides would not match up.
B is for Border - A spot with a spreading or irregular edge (notched).
C is for Colour - Blotchy spots with a number of colours such as black, blue, red, white and/or grey.
D is for Diameter - Look for spots that are getting bigger.


The E.F.G. detection guide
The E.F.G rule was created to improve detection of nodular melanoma which does not meet the ABCD criteria. These melanomas often begin as a red nodule.¹  While their appearance can be mistaken for a pimple, they are much firmer to touch. Nodular melanoma usually has all three of the following features:

  • Elevated
  • Firm
  • Growing for more than a month


Taking action
If you notice one or more skin changes it is important that you visit an ASCC clinic to have them investigated further. At ASCC, we conduct full-body skin checks using a magnifier called a dermatoscope which assists us to identify cancerous and benign moles. ASCC doctors have qualifications in skin cancer management which means we can rapidly diagnose skin cancer and provide the best quality treatment available. Skin cancer checks are especially important as they can help to detect skin cancer in the early stages. When detected early, 98% of skin cancers can be treated successfully so a 15-minute skin check is well worth your time.²

Dr Mary Boyling has been with the Australian Skin Cancer Clinics in Maitland since 2015.  With over 17 years of experience, Dr Mary is highly skilled in the detection and treatment of skin cancer. Her passion for skin cancer prevention and education has made her a highly sought-after doctor. Dr Mary has gained multiple qualifications including the Diploma of Skin Cancer Medicine and Surgery and the Advanced Clinical Certificate of Dermoscopy.

¹The Conversation - Spot the difference: harmless mole or potential skin cancer?
²Cancer Council Victoria – Be Sun Smart