With almost 2500 new melanoma cases being diagnosed in New Zealand every year, what are the chances the beauty therapist clinic is the first point of call for clients presenting with early stage suspicious lesions? Skin rejuvenation is commonly conducted with IPL and lasers in the visible light spectrum (400nm to 700nm), which are designed to lift and remove excessive pigmentation, ultimately these treatments also have the potential to remove malignant (cancerous) lesions by mistake.
Malignant lesions are not just pigmented, they can also contain fluid, blood or appear flat, crusty or raised. To the untrained eye majority of ‘sun spots’ look ok to treat, however these should always have a pre-clearance medical check to ensure they are not suspicious or cancerous.
A common form of skin cancer called Basal cell carcinoma’s (or BCC) make up 80% of skin cancers diagnosed and may look like a small fleshy skin growth, with tiny vessels surrounding them providing a blood supply ; therapists may be tempted to remove these using high frequency, these are often seen on the side of the nose.
There are various forms of skin checks available and one such option is the mole mapping service which conducts a full body mapping of every lesion on the body, any suspicious lesions are zoomed in and sent off to a dermatologist for second opinion. Mapping the lesions means comparisons an be made at regular intervals to track changes that might have occurred.
Dermoscopy or dermatoscopic skin checks are done using different polarised lenses which can see lesions clearly under magnification – using algorithms that score based on patterns, colours, and traits of lesions – melanomas can be identified at very early stages.
Skin checks can also be conducted by a trained skin specialist such as a plastic surgeon, dermatologist, trained GP, or trained skin cancer nurse.
A simple way to introduce best practice standards into your clinic is to state on your website and in your consultation documents that all clients presenting for IPL and Laser skin rejuvenation treatment have a skin check done to be cleared for the presence of malignant lesions. Medical clearance should be provided in writing and stored on the client’s record.
Ideally clinics could list medical practices that offer free skin checks and those who use the recognised dermoscopy visual checks. Increased consumer awareness coupled with professionals working together will result in earlier diagnosis and may even save a life.
Professionals who have already received training in the awareness of melanoma will acknowledge that not enough focus has been placed on the topic by our industry authorities; and recognise it will only be through shared knowledge and encouragement that this recommended best practice will become standard practice.
NZ Laser Training challenges every skin therapist and laser / IPL technician to increase their knowledge on melanoma awareness and would love to be part of the journey to connect professionals to resources available, such as: Melanoma.org.nz, https://www.dermnetnz.org/cme/lesions - NZ Laser Training is continuing work on producing an online educational course to increase awareness of skin lesion best practice standards.
Images provided by Dr Chris Dickey & NZ Laser Training Ltd