It certainly seems a very sensible idea to regularly attend a doctor for a “skin check” to allay one's fears regarding skin cancer. How can it not be a good idea?
Well, the Cancer Council of Australia, the Australasian College of Dermatologists, and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners all do *not* recommend to the general Australian population that they go off to a doctor once a year for a skin check.
Why would these august bodies *not* advise skin checks?
One reason might be that in Australia a melanoma has been present for an average of only 4 months at the time it is detected. Obviously, annual skin checks will miss a lot of these and not, by themselves, improve this average.
Only about a quarter of melanomas are first detected by doctors: the rest are first noted by the patient on self-examination, or by friends and relatives.
But, over all, published recommendations from certain professional bodies may not be made on a utilitarian “greatest good for greatest number” basis, nor on a “precautionary principle” basis, nor on a “balance of probabilities” basis, but on a “not until and unless it's beyond reasonable doubt” basis. That is, some authorities won't recommend a preventative strategy until and unless the accumulated medical evidence favouring the strategy is utterly overwhelming. Think smoking, for example.
So, what way forward?
Well, personally I think annual skin checks are a good idea. I have one.
But, *more* important than the actual check, is the opportunity it presents to be educated and reminded about skin cancer detection.
As Anzac Day approaches, we are reminded of the tradition of Anzac mates in the trenches watching each other's backs. And in the current war against skin cancer Aussies of today could do a lot worse than revive the tradition of watching each other's backs. And legs. And arms.
Doing that every month, or every season change is a good idea
Season change Skin check Season change Skin check.
That's how often (to answer the original question)
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