Although rare in general, Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world. The full name is malignant melanoma: a potentially fatal form of skin cancer caused by cancerous melanocytic cells, which can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
Usually, melanomas are pigmented. Lesions that we worry about include the “ugly-duckling” mole, or moles/lesions that are changing using the ABCDE rule – asymmetry, irregular border, irregular colour, large diameter, and elevation (becoming more raised from the surface). However not all melanomas are pigmented and some may be a red patch or a blue lump.
Because melanoma has the ability to spread, it is critical that melanomas are diagnosed and treated early.
All our dermatologists have been trained in specialised tertiary hospitals managing melanomas. Treatment for melanoma may need to be also co-ordinated with other specialists including general surgeons, plastic surgeons, oncologists, radiation oncologists etc. For advanced melanoma, there are new treatments available offering hope to previously unsalvageable cases.
Once diagnosed with a melanoma, patients will require regular skin surveillance. This is to ensure the melanoma has not recurred or spread, but also to look for any new primary melanomas. Once you have been diagnosed with one melanoma, there is a 10-20% lifetime risk of another primary melanoma appearing elsewhere on the body.
Risk factors for melanoma include family history of melanoma, fair skin/light eyes, large total number of moles, multiple dysplastic/atypical moles, solarium use, blistering sunburns.