Skin Cancers – What you need to know

Confused as to what skin cancers are? Which are the most dangerous?How are they treated? And most importantly how to protect your skin from developing them?!

It can be confusing to a lot of people what it actually means when you get diagnosed with a skin cancer, the different types of skin cancer and also how to get rid of them! We debunk the ins and outs of skin cancers to give you a better explanation of what it entails, so you can make an informed decision about your treatment.

What is skin cancer?
Skin cancers are tumours in which there is an uncontrolled proliferation of any of the skin cells, whereas the normal process of regeneration of skin involves replication of the cells in a controlled fashion. There are three main types of skin cancer.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is a common, locally invasive skin cancer. It is the most common form of skin cancer.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is also a common form of skin cancer, referring to cancer cells that have grown beyond the epidermis.
Melanoma is a potentially serious type of skin cancer, in which there is uncontrolled growth of melanocytes (pigment cells). Melanoma is sometimes called malignant melanoma.
The cancerous growth of melanocytes results in melanoma. Melanoma is described as:
• In situ, if the tumour is confined to the epidermis (the top layer of the skin)
• Invasive, if the tumour has spread into the dermis (the deeper layer of the skin)
• Metastatic, if the tumour has spread to other body areas.

These are the common types of skin cancer we see here in clinic and if caught early, they are very treatable and this is easily done in clinic. Once the dermatologist does a thorough skin check and if any suspicious lesions are detected, a biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis. The dermatologist may also excise the entire lesion.

Risk factors for skin cancers

• Increasing age
• Previous melanoma
• Previous basal or squamous cell carcinoma
• Large numbers of melanocytic naevi (moles)
• Multiple (>5) atypical naevi (large or histologically dysplastic moles)
• A strong family history of melanoma with 2 or more first-degree relatives affected
• Pale skin that burns easily
• Actinic keratoses (pre-cancerous sunspots)
• Outdoor occupation or recreation

How to prevent skin cancer?
– Wear SPF 50+ sunscreen EVERYDAY, no matter if you’re indoors or outdoors, sunny or cloudy. Skin cancer does not discriminate! You need to protect yourself from both UVA and UVB which are both known to damage the skin.
– Get skin checks annually, or every 2 years if you have no skin cancer in the family
– Try to avoid the outdoors between 10 am – 3 pm, this is known to be the most risky time to be outdoors due to the UV index. You can view the UV index by downloading the Sun Smart app which gives you regular updates of UV index and other useful tools to better protect yourself.
– Use clothing as much as you can ie. T-shirt, hats, sunglasses, umbrellas etc… SPF is good but covering your body with clothing is very important also!

If I get a skin cancer what’s involved?
Firstly it depends on what kind of skin cancer you are diagnosed with and the thickness and position of the lesion.
If it is a superficial cancer we can look at using cryotherapy (freezing) or using a prescription cream to help slowly shed the skin cancer. Treatment can sometimes take a few months to complete.
If the skin cancer is a defined lump, we usually remove the lesion by surgery. This may sound drastic but it is actually quite simple and quick. We perform skin surgery routinely in our clinic under local anaesthetic and once the skin is numbed up, the procedure takes about 15mins depending how big the lesion is. Sometimes people go back to work straight after, however it is suggested to take it easy for the next couple of days to avoid any complications with the wound.
Overall skin cancers are quite easy to treat with early detection and the right diagnosis through regular skin checks by a dermatologist. It’s all about PREVENTION and PROTECTION!
Feel free to contact us to schedule your skin check appointment with our expert dermatologists.

Hand Dermatitis in Covid-19 times

In this stressful time of Covid-19, all of us are doing the right thing and keeping our distance and washing our hands. Due to the massive uptake in hand washing and hand sanitiser use in both the public domain and in health care worker (HCWs), we as dermatologists are seeing more and more cases of hand dermatitis. A very common question we get asked is “How do I keep my hands healthy with all this hand washing?” Dr Hope Dinh was asked this question by her previous dermatology nurse who is now ICU-nurse as her nurse wanted to post the response and help out fellow ICU-nurses around the country. The following documents were developed together with a group of Dr Dinh’s dermatology colleagues (who we are fortunate to also call friends) to answer these questions. The documents below have been endorsed by The Australasian College of Dermatologists and the Skin Health Institute and ODREC (Occupational Dermatology Centre).

We hope everyone can benefit from getting help for hand dermatitis ……. A – S – A – P! 

This first briefer document below can be suitable for the general public/our patients and even HCWs.

The 2 documents below are more detailed with more specific information and tips! Remember that dermatologists are here for you if you need help in treating your hand dermatitis. For appointments with any of our 5 dermatologists, call (03) 9039 56644 or email us! Stay safe everyone!

Alopecia Areata

Have you noticed bald patches appearing on your scalp or just general thinning of the hair?? You may have Alopecia Areata, also known as autoimmune hair loss, where one or more round bald patches appear suddenly, most often on the scalp.

Image of man showing patches of hair missing as he suffers from alopecia areata
Alopecia Areata can affect males and females at any age. It starts in childhood in about 50%, and before the age of 40 years in 80%. Lifetime risk is 1–2% and is independent of ethnicity.

What causes alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata is classified as an autoimmune disorder. It is characterised by immune cells flooding the area around the hair follicles. These immune cells then attack the hair and don’t allow the hair to grow. The exact mechanism is not yet understood.
The onset or recurrence of hair loss is sometimes triggered by:
• Viral infection
• Trauma
• Hormonal change
• Emotional/physical stressors
Alopecia areata can also be associated with nail changes such as pitting or ridging. Alopecia areata can be associated with other conditions such as eczema, urticaria (hives) and autoimmune thyroid issues.
Alopecia areata is clinically diagnosed by a qualified dermatologist.

The doctor may also assess the area by using a dermatoscope, if needed a biopsy may be taken to diagnose or confirm the condition.

Related image

So what can you do for your Alopecia Areata?
There is not yet any reliable cure for Alopecia Areata and other forms of autoimmune hair loss, because spontaneous regrowth can occur.
Several topical treatments such as potent steroids used for Alopecia Areata are reported to result in temporary improvement in some people.
Another common treatment method is Intralesional injections – corticosteroid injections into patchy hair loss in the scalp, beard or eyebrows. We normally see patients every 6-8 weeks for follow up injections. Injections are easily tolerated by patients and takes no longer than a few minutes!
Oral medications may also be used but again it isn’t a cure, and ongoing treatment is key with this condition.

Say Goodbye To Hyperhidrosis (Excessive Sweating)

Do you suffer from excessive sweating, have to change your shirts multiple times a day or just from sitting doing nothing you get sweat patches? ….Then we could help you!
Hyperhidrosis also known as excessive sweating can be a very debilitating condition. It can affect people’s confidence, hygiene and also not to mention washing clothes more often!
Hyperhidrosis occurs when over-active sweat glands release a volume of sweat that is significantly more than the body’s normal requirements for cooling. There are two types of hyperhidrosis: Focal Hyperhidrosis (sweating confined to a particular area and Generalised hyperhidrosis (sweating all over the body).

Lucky we have an in clinic treatment that can help, a lot!

What can cause hyperhidrosis?
• Starts in childhood or adolescence
• May persist lifelong or improve with age
• There may be a family history
• Tends to involve armpits, palms and/or soles symmetrically
• Usually, sweating reduces at night and disappears during sleep
• Obesity
• Diabetes
• Menopause
• Overactive thyroid
• Cardiovascular disorders
• Respiratory failure

What can I do to help the condition?
General measures
• Wear loose-fitting, stain-resistant, sweat-proof garments.
• Change clothing and footwear when damp.
• Socks containing silver or copper reduce infection and odour.
• Use absorbent insoles in shoes and replace them frequently.
• Use a non-soap cleanser.
• Apply corn starch powder after bathing.
• Avoid caffeinated food and drink.
• Discontinue any drug that may be causing hyperhidrosis.
• Apply antiperspirant.
• Deodorants are fragrances or antiseptics to disguise unpleasant smells; on their own, they do not reduce perspiration.
• Antiperspirants contain 10–25% aluminium salts to reduce sweating; “clinical strength” aluminium zirconium salts are more effective than aluminium chloride.

In clinic treatment when these measures fail?
There are also some oral medications the dermatologist can prescribe. If all measures fail we can then look at anti sweating injections for under arm sweating! These types of injections are approved for hyperhidrosis affecting the armpits. It is a safe and effective treatment all done in clinic.
Unlike topical treatments, Anti Sweating Injections target sweating at its source. With a few tiny injections, Anti Sweating Injections enter the specific glands in the underarms responsible for excessive sweating. Once there, it blocks the release of a chemical that signals the perspiration.

Effectiveness has been found at 95% in Clinical studies, 1-week post treatment has shown a reduction at an average of 83%. Injection results generally last between 6 – 9 months; although some patients require re treatment after around 4 months (123 days) and others have had success for longer periods of time. An indication for another treatment is the return of symptoms.

How much does it cost???
The other great thing is because it is a medical condition Medicare will pay for some of the costs if the anti-sweating injections are performed by a dermatologist!
With such an easy treatment available it is becoming more and more common in our clinic.
With 95% improvement in sweating for around 6-9 months, what are you waiting for?!

Say goodbye to those sweat patches!

Biologics?! Hives? Psoriasis? Hidradenitis Suppurativa? There is an effective treatment!

Have you been suffering with the chronic itching of hives or are areas of your body covered in plaques of psoriasis? There is more that can be done than just topical steroids that you have probably been using for years and years with it only to really manage your condition. Topical steroids are good for acute attacks and for some do the job, but for others it just doesn’t seem to clear the psoriasis. That’s where biologics come in! Biologics can treat psoriasis but also hives or HS (Hidradenitis Suppurativa). YAY!

What are Biologic drugs?
Biologics, biologic therapies, or biological response modifiers, are drugs derived from living material (human, plant, animal, or micro-organism). They interfere with specific parts of the body’s immune system to treat and prevent immune-mediated inflammatory disorders and cancers. They are also called targeted therapies.
Biological agents work by interfering with specific components of the autoimmune response. Unlike general immunosuppressant’s that suppress the entire immune system, biological agents can fight more selectively and target only those chemicals involved in causing the specific disease.

How do I get onto a Biologic drug?
You will need to see a dermatologist to be prescribed this drug, the dermatologist will take a full history and determine if we should plan to put you on this drug.
Your skin condition will need to be fairly moderate or severe to be approved for this medication. It is also a bit of a process getting a patient on the drug, as patients must try lower strength medications and UVB therapy first and if your skin condition is still failing, then we can look to apply for the biologics! Biologics use to be very expensive but now some are on the PSB which is great; meaning it’s around $40 a script making it affordable for patients!

What to expect?
Biologics are administered through regular injections – the frequency depends on your skin condition. Patients normally find within 4-6 weeks an improvement in their skin, however this can sometimes take longer. Once treatment has kicked in people normally find around 90% clearance rate!

Once you are clear it doesn’t mean you can then stop treatment unfortunately. Normally you will need to be on this for a while, but the doctor may look to decrease the dose or frequency of the drug and slowly look to wean you off if you condition allows you to do this.

Biologics are not a new thing, it’s just many people don’t know that it is available and we need people to get to know about it! It is honestly life changing for people who have been suffering with chronic skin conditions for years and years. Book in with one of our dermatologists to start your path to clear skin! We can help you and you don’t have to live with these itchy debilitating conditions!