Recently, Lotus Dermatology surveyed a number of patients about the incidences of melanoma in Australia and the Hunter Region. Only 14% of participants could accurately identify that 2 out of 3 Australians will be diagnosed with a melanoma before age 70. That means 86% of participants underestimated the prevalence of the disease.
Melanoma is a cancer of the melanocytes, the cells that provide skin with its brown colour. The most important fact is that Melanoma can be cured when detected & treated early. Melanoma may occur on any part of the body even on the soles of the feet and eyes. A Melanoma may start growing in a spot you already have on your skin – but more than 50% will develop as a new spot. Common areas for a Melanoma to occur on a male is the back and in females, the legs. It grows quickly and if not treated, may spread to other parts of the body such as the blood or lymph glands.
Types of skin cancer
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) and Melanoma. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer because it behaves like an internal cancer.
Types of melanoma
Superficial spreading melanoma: is the most common type and initially spreads outwards in the top layer of the skin. This type becomes dangerous when it invades downward into the lower layer of the skin.
Nodular melanoma: often very dark brownish black or black in colour but can be pink or red. It forms a raised lump on the surface of the skin as it invades directly into the deeper layers of the skin without there being any lateral growth.
Acral lentiginous melanoma: most commonly found on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet or under the nails. This type is more common in people with darker skin.
Lentigo maligna melanoma: (also known as Hutchinson’s melanotic freckle) appears in areas of skin that get a lot of sun exposure, such as the face and upper body. It may grow slowly and superficially over many years, later forming lumps as it grows deeper into the skin.
In NSW in 2001 there were 2,959 new cases of melanoma of the skin (1,727 male, 1,232 female). This was 10.7% of all cancers in males and 9% in females. 421 of these cases resulted in death.
We encourage everyone to regularly check their skin and raise any concerns when seeing your GP or Dermatologist. If you have a family history of melanoma, or are concerned with changes to your skin, check out Lotus Dermatology’s Total Body Photography Service.
When checking your skin, remember the ABCDE of skin checks:
A – Asymmetry (one half does not match the other)
B – Border irregularity
C – Colour that is not uniform
D – Diameter (greater than 6mm)
E – Evolving size, shape or colour
Statistics and information taken from Lotus Dermatology Clinical Survey 2016 and Hunter Melanoma Foundation.