Melanomas are an insidious form of cancer and, if left to their own devices, can spread to other parts of your body.
They are the most dangerous form of skin cancer, and you shouldn’t take them lightly or wait to get them seen to … you know what it’s like … you see a suspect mole and think, ‘Well it doesn’t hurt, doesn’t look like anything much really so I’ll wait a month or maybe get it checked next year.’
This could be a Big Mistake.
I am one of the world’s biggest wimps when it comes to blood and needles, but I can only thank my Doctor for spotting my melanoma early and making sure I went in to have it removed.
We are lucky to live in a beautiful part of the world, but there are always downsides to Paradise and Western Australia purportedly has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in Australia.
So if you only do one thing today, and you haven’t done so recently, why not book an appointment for a skin check?
Facts about Melanomas
- The Cancer Council warns that Melanoma is the least common form of skin cancer but the most serious as it can spread.
- It usually occurs on parts of the body that have been overexposed to the sun, but can also start on parts that have had no sun exposure.
- If found early, it’s often curable. If later, it may have grown deeper and spread.
- Melanomas vary greatly in the way they look
- The first sign is usually a new spot or a change in an existing mole. It’s size, colour, shape or border may change or it might begin to itch and bleed. For more information check out Cancer Council.
- Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of melanoma in the world according to the Australian Cancer Council. It’s the fourth most common cancer in men and women and represents about 10% of all cancer diagnoses.
- Main cause is from exposure to UV Ultraviolet radiation from the sun, or solarium tanning machines.
Fair skin, light blue eyes, people who burn easily, lots of moles (more than 10 on arms and 100 on body), a history of childhood tanning before 15, UV exposure, and if you’ve had a melanoma before.
How to help protect yourself from getting skin cancer
- Always wear sunscreen with a high protection factor – SPF30+ Sunscreen. Your sunscreen should be broad spectrum and water-resistant. Don’t use sunscreen to increase the amount of time you spend in the sun and always use with other forms of protection too. Apply sunscreen liberally at least 20 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours.
- Cover up when you’re in the sun. Wear sun protective clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible – such as long sleeves and high collars, bicycle gloves if your bicycling. Wear clothes that are made from close weave materials such as cotton, polyester/cotton and linen. If you can see through the material then UV radiation can get through.
- When swimming wear ‘rashies’ or cover-ups over your costume made from materials such as lycra, which stays sun protective when wet.
- Wear a hat. A broad-rimmed hat is good, so too are legionnaire or bucket style hats that give protection for not only your face and nose but your neck and ears too. Sports caps and sun visors don’t give adequate protection. As with your clothes choose hats that are made from closely woven fabrics – if you can see through the fabric then UV radiation can get through too.
- Wear sunglasses to protect you from reflected UV radiation.
- Seek shade whenever possible. Staying in the shade reduce sun exposure so look out for trees which cast dark shadows, or shade structures such as beach umbrellas and tall buildings. But still use other protection (such as clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen) to avoid reflected UV radiation from nearby surfaces.
- Check the UV guide (Bureau of Meteorology) and avoid going out in the sun when the UV dial is high.
- Be extra cautious in the middle of the day when UV levels are likely to be high
- For women: Make sure your daytime moisturiser and foundation have some sun factor protection in them.
Sun Safety and Melanomas
“Avoid sunburn by minimising sun exposure when the SunSmart UV Alert exceeds 3 and especially in the middle of the day when UV levels are most intense. Seek shade, wear a hat that covers the head, neck and ears, wear sun protective clothing and close-fitting sunglasses, and wear an SPF30+ sunscreen. Avoid using solariums (tanning salons).” Cancer Council. For more information: Melanoma Institute Australia
“Sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat worn together can reduce UV radiation exposure to the eyes by up to 98 per cent. Sunglasses should be worn outside during daylight hours. Choose close-fitting wrap-around sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard AS 1067. Sunglasses are as important for children as they are for adults.” Melanoma Cancer Council.
- Be extra cautious in the middle of the day or when UV level is 3 or above.
- The SunSmart UV Alert tells you the time period in which you need to be SunSmart. It is on the weather page of most daily newspapers and on the Bureau of Meteorology
- Check your skin regularly and see a doctor if you notice any unusual skin changes. If you have a lesion that doesn’t heal, or a mole that has suddenly appeared, changed in size, thickness, shape, colour or has started to bleed, see your doctor immediately. Treatment is more likely to be successful if skin cancer is discovered early.
- Remember, if you have any concerns or questions, contact your doctor. If you’re in Western Australia you might like to contact : Skin Check WA – Cancer Clinic
Thanks to the Melanoma Cancer Council for some of the facts and suggestions in this post. You might also visit Melanoma WA, a site promoting more awareness about skin and sun safety, and offering support for anyone affected by melanoma, run by Clinton Heal (2011 WA Young Australian of the Year).
If you think this article could make people you love more aware about getting their skin checked then please share the post on Facebook or Twitter, or wherever you hang out on social media.
I still have regular skin checks.