What is melanoma?
Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, develops in the melanocytes (cells producing melanin). Melanoma is the third most common cancer in Australia for both genders, following colorectal and breast/prostate cancer. Melanomas are predominantly found in sun exposed skin, however rare cases can occur in the mouth, eyes, and genital area.
What causes melanoma?
Melanoma is caused by a combination of factors, such as genetic and environmental
factors. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunrays and from tanning lamps is
believed to be the leading cause of melanoma. The risk for melanoma is higher in
people with the following conditions:
- Fair skin which sunburns easily, freckles and never tans
- Repeated sunburn or blistering
- Long family history of melanoma
- Experience of using solariums
- A high number of moles
- Unusual-looking moles
How is it treated?
Most melanomas can be cured if detected at an early stage. At Kew Dermatology, our dermatologists are committed towards the early detection of melanoma, keeping abreast of the latest clinical trials and research relating to melanoma.
We evaluate patients with no previous history of melanoma to perform preventative checks as well as manage patients who have a history of melanoma in the family, who have had melanomas removed or who have been diagnosed by their GP to have a lesion of concern.
Melanoma at an early stage generally requires surgical removal, which we usually perform in our well-equipped facility on site. In cases of advanced melanoma, we coordinate your surgery with the Victorian Melanoma Service or a plastic surgeon where necessary. The treatment options for advanced stages may include surgery to remove affected lymph nodes, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
How do I identify a melanoma?
The most important warning signs to distinguish melanomas are new lesions or any
changes in the colour, size or shape of spots (ABCDE).
- Asymmetry: One-half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
- Border: The edges become irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.
- Colour: The colour may not be the same all over and may include shades of
brown or black or sometimes patches of pink, red, white or blue.
- Diameter: The spot may be larger than 5 millimetres across—although
melanomas can be smaller than this.
- Evolving: The mole changes in size, shape or colour.