How common is melanoma?

Melanoma Slip Slop Slap Seek Slide

While we enjoy the summer holidays and love the surf, sea and sunshine, the fact that too much of a good thing can be detrimental is real.

This is especially true of the sun, and while a little Vitamin D is healthy and encouraged, too much is asking for trouble.

Slipping, slopping and slapping was a super effective sun campaign launched by the Cancer Council in Australia in 1981 and now seek and slide have been added to complete the drill.

Parents and schools have embraced such a relatively easy way to make slathering on sunscreen fun which was unheard of pre 1981 – coconut oil was the product of choice in the 1970s.

The fact remains that melanoma kills, and Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of melanoma in the world with more than 13,000 people diagnosed with melanoma in Australia every year.

Although it is one of the less common types of skin cancer, melanoma is considered the most serious because it is more likely to spread to other parts of the body, especially if not detected early. The earlier melanoma is found, the more successful treatment is likely to be.

Melanoma is the third most common cancer in both men and women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers). One in 13 men and 1 in 22 women will be diagnosed with melanoma before age 85.2

When your unprotected skin is exposed to UV radiation, the structure and behaviour of the cells can change. Anyone can develop melanoma.

However, the risk is higher in people who have unprotected exposure to the sun, a history of childhood tanning and sunburn, lots of moles, more than 10 moles above the elbow on the arms and more than 100 on the body.

Also those with pale, fair or freckled skin, especially if it burns easily and doesn’t tan, lots of moles with an irregular shape and uneven colour, a previous melanoma or other type of skin cancer, or a strong family history of melanoma.

In addition, higher at risk are those with a pattern of short, intense periods of exposure to UV radiation, such as on weekends and holidays, especially if it caused sunburn; light-coloured eyes (blue or green), and fair or red hair, and a weakened immune system from using immunosuppressive medicines for a long time.

Book into see a doctor or a skin specialist who will examine your skin to see if you are at risk on the criteria known as “ABCDE” –

Asymmetry: Are the halves of each mole different?

Border: Are the edges uneven, scalloped or notched?

Colour: Are there differing shades and colour patches?

Diameter: Is the spot greater than 6 mm across?

Evolving: Has the spot changed over time (size, shape, surface, colour, bleeding, itching)?

Melanoma can be treated most effectively in its early stages when it is still confined to the top layer of the skin (epidermis).

The deeper a melanoma penetrates into the lower layer of the skin (dermis), the greater the risk that it could spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs.

In recent years, clinical trials have led to new treatments that continue to improve the prognosis for people with melanoma that has spread from the primary site (advanced melanoma).

For information and support on cancer-related issues, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 This is a confidential service or visit Cancer Council Queensland

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