What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in the skin cells called melanocytes and usually occurs on the parts of the body that have been overexposed to the sun. Rare melanomas can occur inside the eye or in parts of the skin or body that have never been exposed to the sun such as palms of the hands, the soles of feet and under the nails. This is more common in people who have relatives with melanoma.
Often melanoma has no symptoms or signs visible to the naked eye (which is why skin cancer doctors use special equipment to examine moles). However, the first sign is generally a change in an existing mole or the appearance of a new spot. These changes can include:
- Colour – a mole may change in colour, have different colour shades, or become blotchy.
- Size – a mole may appear to get bigger.
- Shape – a mole may have an irregular shape, may increase in height or not be symmetrical.
- Elevation – the mole may develop a raised area.
- Itching or bleeding
New moles and spots often appear and change during childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy. This may be normal, however, adults who develop new or changing spots or moles should have them examined by their doctor.
Some melanomas present and a raised, firm , rapidly growing lump that is skin coloured rather than dark. Skin lumps that are growing over a few weeks should be checked as soon as possible.
Causes of melanoma.
Melanoma risk is increased for people who have:
- unprotected UV radiation exposure
- a history of childhood tanning and sunburn.
- a pattern of short, intense periods of exposure to UV radiation
- having a lot of moles (naevi) – more than 50 on the body and more than 10 above the elbows on the arms
- 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 (blue or green), light or red hair colour.
- had a previous melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer.
To prevent melanoma, avoid getting sunburnt, seek shade, wear a hat that covers your head, neck and ears, wear sun protective clothing, wear sunglasses and wear an SPF30 or SPF50 sunscreen.
If you do notice a new spot or change in an existing mole, book an appointment with either Dr Brittany Wakefield or Dr Paul Colbrook to have these examined. Book online here: www.reydonstreet.com.au/billing-arrangements/bookings/