What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a common form of cancer that starts in the skin’s melanocyte cells. If left untreated, melanoma can spread to other areas of the body, including the lymph nodes, internal organs and bones.
Melanoma can manifest as a new spot or change in an existing freckle or mole. Changes that could indicate melanoma include:
- Colour – variation of colour with different shades of brown or black
- Shape – asymmetrical or have irregular borders
- Size – growing bigger or be larger than 6mm
- Height – raised
- Irritation – itchy, bleeding or crusting
Considered Australia’s ‘national cancer’, melanoma of the skin is the country’s third most diagnosed cancer. Over 17,000 new melanoma cases are diagnosed each year.
If diagnosed at stage I, melanoma can be cured in most cases. Advances in immunotherapy and other interventions have improved outcomes for patients diagnosed in later stages. However, around 1,300 Australians will lose their life to this deadly cancer that can affect young and old.
What are the risk factors?
- Sun exposure – 95% of melanomas are attributed to the sun’s UV radiation exposure
- Having lots of moles on your body
- Fair skin and a tendency to sunburn
- Family history of melanoma in a first degree relative
- History of a previous skin cancer
- Weakened immune system
- Use of tanning beds