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Melanoma: The most deadly form of skin cancer

SKIN CANCER

At Australian Clinical Labs our highly-trained pathologists diagnose deadly skin cancer every day, and every day we see firsthand the importance of catching it early. If you see anything suspicious on your or your loved ones’ skin, please go and see the doctor and have it checked.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MELANOMA

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and grows very quickly if left untreated. It can spread to the deeper layers of your skin, enter the lymphatic system or bloodstream and then spread to other parts of the body i.e. lungs, liver, brain or bone4. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that usually develops on parts of the body that have been overexposed to the sun.

THE FRIGHTENING FACTS

  • Australia and New Zealand have the highest rate of Melanoma in the world1
  • Melanoma is more common in men than women. 1 in 13 Australian men are diagnosed with Melanoma by age 851
  • 80% of Melanoma diagnoses occur in Australians over the age of 50
  • Melanoma is the most common cancer affecting 15 to 39-year-old Australians2
  • One Australian is diagnosed with Melanoma every 30 minutes
  • One Australian dies every 5 hours from Melanoma


MELANOMA RISK FACTORS

Melanoma risk increases with exposure to UV radiation from the sun or other sources such as sunbeds, particularly with episodes of sunburn (especially during childhood).

Melanoma risk is increased for people who have1:

  • unprotected sun exposure
  • a history of childhood tanning and sunburn
  • a pattern of short, intense periods of exposure to UV radiation
  • increased numbers of unusual moles (dysplastic naevi)
  • depressed immune systems
  • a family history of melanoma in a first degree relative
  • fair skin, a tendency to burn rather than tan, freckles, light eye colour, light or red hair colour
  • had a previous melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer

WHAT TO CHECK FOR

Often melanoma has no symptoms, however, the first sign is generally a change in an existing mole or the appearance of a new spot.

During childhood, adolescence and pregnancy it is normal for new moles and spots to appear and change. However, adults who develop new spots or moles should have them examined by their doctor. 

When checking your or your partner’s moles and spots, look out for the following changes1:

  • Colour – an existing mole that changes colour
  • Size – an existing mole that gets bigger
  • Shape – an existing mole that develops an irregular border or increases in height
  • Elevation - an existing mole that develops a raised area
  • An existing mole that starts itching or bleeding


EXAMPLES OF MELANOMA ON THE BODY

 

The good news is that if detected early, melanoma can be effectively treated3.

Ensure you and your loved ones have an annual skin check with your GP, skin cancer practitioner or dermatologist, or if you have noticed any of the above changes to existing moles or spots book in for a quick spot check. 


References

1. Australian Cancer Council https://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/skin-cancer/melanoma.html
2. Melanoma Institute Australia https://www.melanoma.org.au/understanding-melanoma/melanoma-facts-and-statistics/
3. Melanoma Institute Australia https://www.melanoma.org.au/understanding-melanoma/what-is-melanoma
4. Australian Cancer Council https://wiki.cancer.org.au/skincancerstats/Skin_cancer_incidence_and_mortality