Making Sense Of Melanoma

Mela-What, What Is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that typically begins on the skin that is most exposed to the sun. Melanoma is curable when detected and treated early however, it can spread deeper into the skin and other parts of the body, becoming harder to manage.

Common Symptoms

The first sign of melanoma are often ones we can see on our skin. This might be changes in shape or colour of existing moles, or even unusual-looking growths. Moles generally have a pink, tan, brown of black colour and a distinct border separating the surrounding skin. Any change, asymmetrical shape, or unusual colour should be checked by a healthcare professional.

Checking For Hidden Melanomas

Sometimes melanomas can develop in areas that have little to no sun exposure. These hidden spaces might be between the toes, on palms, soles, scalp or genitals. These areas are referred to as hidden melanomas. Other uncommon places difficult to monitor mucous membranes, such as the nose, mouth, anus, urinary tract, the eyes, or under nails. Healthcare professionals can help detect these and they are often rare.

Prevention Is Shady And Cool

Seek shade, wear a hat, protective clothing and sunglasses. When possible, stay out of the sun when the UV index is 3 or greater to decrease the chance of sunburn and skin damage. Growing up in Australia we have a perception that a tan is considered healthy however, it is a sign of DNA damage and a cellular trauma response. Our skin cells are attempting to protect themselves from further damage. Sensible sun protection doesn’t risk vitamin D deficiency either.

Layer, Lather, Protect

You’ve heard it before, any time outside requires a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

SPF of at least 50 is our best friend when it comes to preventing skin and reducing the risk of skin cancer. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming and sweating. Apply a generous amount each time, the rule of thumb is seven teaspoons for a full body application.


Early Detection And Diagnosis

Early detection of skin cancer is critical and much easier to treat. Survival from melanoma is often associated with the depth of invasion and how deep and thick the melanoma is. Cancer Council Australia recommends people consult their health care professional when they notice any skin changes, as well as regular skin self-examinations can be conducted at home. Higher risk individuals may include people with fair skin, those who have higher number of moles, a depressed immune system, a family history of melanoma, or a previous diagnosis.