When we think about our skin we may focus on wrinkles or acne and forget about melanoma or skin cancer. It just isn’t on the radar as much as it should be. In fact, knowledge of this common cancer is patchy at best as it simply doesn’t get the same media coverage as some other cancers.
If you have concerns about melanoma, our handy, quick guide to the main points will hopefully point you in the right direction.
What is melanoma?
Skin cancer or melanoma is damage to the skin cells that triggers mutations and faster cell growth. This often occurs due to exposure to UV rays or sunlight. It most often shows up as an unusual mole or pigmentation that grows suddenly or changes shape.
The risk factors
The following are some of the signs that you could have an increased risk of skin cancer:
● Use of sunbeds or regular exposure to sunlight
● Fair skin that burns easily
● A family history of melanoma
● A history of sunburn either in childhood or as an adult
● Your age – the older you are the higher your risk
● More than 10 moles on your right arm
The signs of skin cancer
The first sign you will have of melanoma is almost always visual skin changes – especially to moles. Look out for the following:
● Asymmetrical borders or general shape
● More than one colour within the mole
● A diameter of more than 1-2mm
● A mole that changes shape, size or colour
● Itching, oozing or ulceration of any mole
● Moles or skin pigment changes that occur in unusual places such as the palms of the hands or soles of the feet
If you are diagnosed with melanoma the treatment will depend on what stage it is caught at. But it can range from a simple removal of the mole and surrounding tissue, removal of nearby lymph nodes and targeted therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy. Obviously, the earlier the cancer is detected the less invasive the treatment will be.
The information we have given you to this point might be a bit scary – but the fact is that skin cancer is often easily prevented and involves the simple act of staying out of the sun, avoiding tanning beds and covering your skin with clothing and/or sunscreen.
Regular screening is also a great idea. You can do this at home with our app designed to capture images of your moles and compare them regularly to see changes. Or you can visit a dermatologist or your doctor if you have any concerns at all.