Australia has the highest incidence of malignant melanoma in the world with around 1400 Australians being diagnosed in 2017 and 1800 dying of the disease.
It is the most common cancer in the 15- 45 year age group.
Melanoma is a type of cancer that forms in pigment cells (melanocytes). It is the most aggressive skin cancer and can spread to other regions in the body via the lymphatic system or bloodstream.
Melanoma can arise anywhere on the body, including the face, lips, soles of the feet, under fingernails and toenails and even in areas that have never seen sun. It can also be fast or slow growing, raised or flat.
Risk factors for the development of melanoma include:
- Fair skin
- Past history of melanoma
- Family history
- Large birthmarks
Most melanomas are curable if diagnosed early. The main factor which has been shown to increase survival in melanoma is early recognition and surgery. Once the melanoma is removed the most important indicator of whether the melanoma has spread is its depth in the skin.
Use the Melanoma ABCDE Approach
If you notice a Melanocytic naevus (harmless mole) on your skin and you find it worrying, it can be helpful to think about the ABCDE of suspicious moles:
** Please note that the ABCDE criteria is only a guide **
A – Asymmetry:
Do the two halves of the mole look different?
Melanoma is often irregular or asymmetrical in shape.
B – Border:
Borders that are poorly defined or irregular. Borders of the mole are uneven and edges are scalloped, rugged or notched.
C – Colour:
Do the colour vary from one area to another in the mole?
Melanomas can have shades of red, white or blue, but they are most often shades of tan and brown or black. Remember that changes in colour, even if it still only one colour, such as a darkening mole could also be a melanoma symptom.
D – Diameter / Dark colour / Different:
Melanomas are typically bigger than a pencil eraser (about 6mm) when diagnosed, but they can start smaller.
A mole that is different from the others should also be considered suspicious.
E – Evolving / Elevation:
If you notice a mole or lesion starting to increase in size or that the mole or growth is raised and has an uneven surface get it checked to see if it could be the first sign of melanoma skin cancer. You should also be on the lookout for any growing dome-shaped spots on your skin.