As Spring is in full swing and the sun is coming out again it is time to think about our skin, particularly melanoma.
We hear about Melanoma being the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It may appear as a new spot or as a change in an existing mole or freckle. Over 95 per cent of skin cancers can be successfully treated if they are found early. Did you know that Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world? Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70.
Excluding non-melanoma skin cancers, melanoma is the third most common cancer in Australia. It is most commonly diagnosed in people aged 55 and over. However, young adults, teenagers and even children can be affected. In fact, Australian adolescents have, by far, the highest adolescent incidence of malignant melanoma in the world.
If untreated, melanomas can spread to other parts of the body and may not be curable. The biggest risk factor for developing a melanoma is overexposure to UV radiation from the sun or from artificial sources such as solariums which is why most states have moved to ban them.
The three major types of skin cancer are:
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Basal cell carcinoma
Causes of melanoma
Melanoma and other skin cancers generally develop from over-exposure to UV radiation. Each time unprotected skin is exposed to UV radiation from the sun or artificial sources, such as solariums, changes take place in the structure of the cells.
Too much UV radiation causes the skin to become permanently damaged, which will worsen with each exposure. Skin cancer can grow when the cells that make up our skin are damaged, causing them to grow abnormally.
Every additional decade of overexposure to UV further increases your risk of skin cancer. Increased use of sun protection will help prevent skin cancer and melanoma at any age.
People with one or more risk factors are at increased risk of melanoma. These are:
- People who have pale or fair skin or skin that burns easily and does not tan
- Lots of moles on the skin
- A number of large, irregularly shaped and unevenly colored moles
- Previous melanomas
- A history of many sunburns (as a result of over-exposure to UV)
- Other people in the family who have had melanoma (family history)
- Being older (risk increases with age)
Checking for Melanoma
It’s important to get to know your skin and what is normal for you, so changes will be quickly noticed. Don’t just rely on an annual skin check to detect any suspicious spots.
Check all of your skin, not just sun-exposed areas. If you notice anything unusual, including any change in shape, color or size of a spot, or the development of a new spot, visit the doctor immediately.
While melanomas usually occur on parts of the body that have been sunburned, they can sometimes start in parts of the skin or other parts of the body that have never been exposed to the sun. Melanomas on the arms and legs are usually detected earlier and have a better chance of successful treatment than melanomas on the body, neck or head (which are usually detected at a later stage).
Melanoma can be diagnosed by:
- Physical examination – including medical history
- Excision biopsy – under local anesthetic, the suspected melanoma and some of the surrounding skin is removed. The sample will be examined in a laboratory for signs of cancer.
If a melanoma is diagnosed, further tests may be needed if surgery is planned or to see if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. These tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Chest x-ray
- Ultrasound scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Bone scan
- Lymph node biopsy
Treatment of Melanoma:
Most people with melanoma may need to have surgery. In some cases, melanomas may be treated by radiotherapy, chemotherapy and other drugs.
The treating doctor will advise on the best treatment which will depend on the type of Melanoma / cancer one has, where it is, how far it has spread and what’s the best way to proceed with treatment.
It’s important to note that 90% of Victorians are alive five years after a diagnosis of melanoma. This has improved significantly from 85 per cent in 1985.
The prognosis is better for women than for men. The five-year melanoma survival rate for women is 93 per cent, whereas that for men is 87 per cent. As mentioned, it’s important to check and screen for spots, moles and freckles that have appeared or seem to be changing in size and color and consult a medical professional as soon as possible.
We hope you find this information of use and remember; share with your family and friends, being sunsmart, checking our skin and spreading awareness is the best way we can reduced incidence of melanoma.
McQueen Financial Group is a corporate authorised representative of Total Financial Solutions Limited. AFSL No. 224 954, ABN 94 003 771 579. This information is of a general nature only and does not consider your investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs. You should not act on any information in this report without first consulting a professional investment adviser in order to ascertain whether the information and any investment decision is appropriate. This information is believed to be accurate however no warranty of accuracy or reliability is given in relation to any advice or information contained, and neither TFSA or its Representatives and officers, agents or employees of either of the aforementioned shall not be held liable for any loss or damage whatsoever arising in any way for any representation, act or omission, whether express or implied (including responsibility to any persons by reason of negligence).