In 2015, Melanoma accounted for nearly 1 in 10 cancer diagnoses in Australia. By the age of 85, 1 in 13 men and 1 in 22 women will receive the diagnosis. Many people may still wonder what is melanoma exactly? Melanin is produced in skin cells called melanocytes. This is where melanoma, a type of skin cancer, begins.
There are two types of melanin: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Melanin is a natural dark pigment in the hair, skin, and eyes of humans and animals. Skin damage from ultraviolet radiation causes melanocytes to produce more melanin.
Eumelanin protects the skin by causing it to tan or darken, whereas pheomelanin does not. Early detection of melanoma is crucial, as it can significantly increase your chances for recovery.
What Is Melanoma? – Risk Factors
In Australia, you may be thinking, “What is the risk of melanoma?” There are many different factors that may play a role in your risk for melanoma, especially under the hot Australian sun. It is essential to understand the causes and whether you are at risk.
In addition to excess exposure to ultraviolet rays, you may be at risk for melanoma under the following circumstances: genetics or a family history of skin cancer, fair skin, moles, or a weakened immune system due to a medical condition. If you fall under any of these categories, it is important to get regular skin checks from your physician. This can help with early detection.
What Is Melanoma? – Warning Signs
Early detection of melanoma is crucial; it can significantly increase your chances of recovery. In addition to frequent skin checks by your doctor, there are some warning signs to look out for on your own.
Typically, a mole or brown spot on your skin is harmless.
However, if you notice a mole that is more than one colour, asymmetrical, getting bigger or changing size, or has a weird shape and doesn’t resemble other moles on your body, this is a good indication to have it looked at by your doctor.
What Is Melanoma? – Types
There are four main types of melanoma. The most common form is called Superficial Spreading Melanoma (SSM). This type can arise in an existing mole or appear in a new area of the skin. In men, it typically appears on the torso, while in women, it is usually found on the legs. In some cases, it can appear anywhere on the body.
Lentigo Maligna (LM) is a type of melanoma that typically develops in older people. Lentigo Maligna is when the original cancer becomes invasive and spreads beyond the origination point. It is typically a blueish-black colour, but this can vary.
Acral Lentiginous Melanoma (ALM) is the most common form of melanoma to develop in people of colour, including Africans. It appears in difficult areas to spot, such as the soles of the feet or under fingernails.
Nodular Melanoma (NM) is the most aggressive form of melanoma. This type grows deeper into the skin more quickly than the other types. It is typically invasive and has reached the deeper layers of skin before diagnosis.
What Is Melanoma? – Treatments
The options available for melanoma treatment depends on the location of the cancer, how far it has spread in the body, and general health and well-being. The best option for melanoma treatment in patients where the melanoma has not spread is surgery or excision. Some excisions can be performed in-office with a local anaesthetic.
If the melanoma has spread, melanoma treatment may include a variation of surgery, immunotherapy, cancer drugs, radiation therapy, laser treatment, and chemotherapy. You may be referred to a skin cancer specialist depending on the level at which the melanoma has spread and how complicated the melanoma treatment will be.
What Is Melanoma? – Prevention
Melanoma is one of the most common forms of cancer in Australia, affecting both women and men. Prevention and early detection are both possible. Preventative measures include frequent skin checks with your physician, applying the proper skin protection when exposed to ultraviolet rays, avoid tanning beds and long hours in the sun, and educating yourself in regards to your family history and genetics.
At Sirius Health Chatswood Medical Center, we want to create a partnership with you in pursuit of your healthiest life. We are highly educated and trained to provide you with the tools necessary for prevention.
At Sirius Health Chatswood, we pride ourselves in providing first-class medical treatment 7 days a week. Our team of health practitioners, specialists, and doctors are here to help you take control of your health. If you or a loved one are wondering, “What is melanoma, and how can I prevent it?” we can help. Call us today to set up an appointment for a skin check or a general health visit on (02) 9159 6903.