Melanoma is the third most common cancer diagnosed in Australia, which along with New Zealand has the world’s highest incidence rate for melanoma.

 

WHAT IS MELANOMA?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer which 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.

Melanoma is the third most common cancer diagnosed in Australia, which along with New Zealand has the world’s highest incidence rate. Melanoma is more commonly diagnosed in men than women. The risk of being diagnosed with melanoma by age 85 is 1 in 13 for men compared to 1 in 22 for women. In 2014, 13,134 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in Australia, accounting for nearly one in ten cancer diagnoses. In Australia in 2015, there were 1,520 deaths due to melanoma.


MELANOMA SYMPTOMS

Often Melanoma has no symptoms, 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 or have different colour shades or become blotchy

  • size ? a mole may appear to get bigger

  • shape ? a mole may have in irregular border or may increase in height

  • elevation ? the mole may develop a raised area

  • itching or bleeding

Other symptoms include dark areas under nails or on membranes lining the mouth. New moles and spots will appear and change during childhood, adolescence and during pregnancy and this is normal. However, adults who develop new spots or moles should have them examined by their doctor.


CAUSES OF MELANOMA

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

Melanoma risk is increased for people who have:

  • 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

  • has a previous melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer