Skin checks (Currently recommended only for patients at high risk)

Skin check

We recommend that you defer your routine/low risk skin cancer check-up until Stage 3 Covid-19 restrictions have lifted

Your first full body skin check at Spot Check Clinic takes about 30-40 minutes. By the time you leave, you will have a good idea of:

  • your risk of skin cancer
  • whether you have any abnormal or suspicious spots or moles
  • if you need to return to have any abnormal spots re-checked or removed
  • how frequently you should have your skin checked in future

Who should have a skin cancer check?

A yearly full body skin cancer examination is recommended for people:

  • with a history of any type of skin cancer or “pre-cancer”, including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, solar keratoses and dysplastic moles
  • with medical risk factors for skin cancer
  • with a family history (parents, brothers, sisters or children) of melanoma
  • who have ever used a solarium (especially if more than ten times)
  • with medical conditions or medications that increase skin cancer risk (usually conditions or medications that affect the immune system)
  • with more than 100 moles
  • with fair/white skin who are 40 or older

Some people at especially high risk (for example, with a recent history of melanoma, or many previous skin cancers) are advised to have a skin cancer check more frequently than once per year.

What should I expect from a full body skin cancer screening?

A full skin check might take a couple of visits to complete. If there are slightly abnormal-looking spots, your doctor may decide to photograph them and re-photograph them after a few months. You should consider this review part of the overall check-up process.

What does the skin check process involve?

During your first visit for a full body skin check, this is what to expect:

  • A doctor will ask about your general medical history, overall health, medications, allergies and other medical subjects that might affect your risk of developing skin cancer and influence the tests and treatments that should be performed. You will also be asked about your skin cancer risk factors such as history of sunburns and solarium use and skin cancers in your family.
  • Based on your discussion, your doctor will advise you of your skin cancer risk and how often you should be checked in future.
  • Before examining your skin, your doctor will leave the room so you can get undressed in private. You will need to remove all clothing except your underwear and most of your jewellery. After undressing, you can put on a dressing gown to cover up.
  • The doctor will return to the room to examine you. If you would like to have mole mapping, otherwise also known as full body photography, this is normally done first. See the Mole mapping page for information about this process (Note: There is an extra charge for mole mapping. Mole mapping must be booked in advance; it can add 20-30 minutes to your total appointment time.)
  • Next, the doctor will examine your individual spots close-up. Depending on your doctor, you might start in a sitting, standing or lying position. The doctor will systematically examine your body, looking closely at any moles, spots or lumps of interests. This examination is performed using a dermoscope — a medical instrument which lights up and magnifies your skin. The light is polarised so it can more easily penetrate the top layer of skin, allowing the doctor to see features which would not otherwise be visible.
Doctor is examining a mole on a patient's using a dermoscope during a skin cancer check.
A dermoscope being used to examine a mole on a patient's arm.
  • Your doctor will check with you before examining your buttocks (and breasts if you are a woman). Skin cancers are unusual in these areas, so if you are more comfortable not having those areas checked, it’s unlikely any cancers will be missed. Skin cancers are rare on the genitals, so this is not a routine part of the examination. The doctor will examine your scalp, but bear in mind that if you have long hair it might not be possible for them to see all spots there.
  • During the examination, the doctor will take note of any spots with unusual colouring, shapes or other features. Sometimes, they will be able to identify a skin cancer just by examining it, but in most cases, they will identify very low risk spots (probably not skin cancers) which should be tracked over time for any suspicious changes. The doctor or a nurse will photograph these spots using a dermoscopic camera.
  • After your photos have been taken, the doctor or nurse will leave you to get dressed in private.
  • The doctor will return to the room and discuss your spots and photographs. They will show you the features and digital analysis of the most interesting or suspicious ones and advise on the best follow-up. Some spots need to be partially biopsied and this can usually be done on the spot. Others need a complete excision procedure with stitches, and this might need to be scheduled for another appointment. Most of the spots will be very low risk to your health and can be left in place. Your doctor will usually recommend further photography or imaging in 3-6 months to check for any small suspicious changes in these low risk spots.