Facts about Melanoma

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Melanoma can spread rapidly and can be life threatening if left untreated. If detected early, however, most melanomas can be cured.
New Zealand has one of the highest melanoma incidence rates in the world.
Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer in New Zealand, with about 2000 cases a year. Up to 300 people die each year from Melanoma in New Zealand. According to the Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand, although 70 percent of melanoma cases occur in people 50 years and older, that leaves 30 percent of cases occurring in those younger than fifty.
The risk of melanoma is reduced by protecting the skin using physical methods such as broad-brimmed hats, sunglasses, clothing and sitting in the shade combined with the addition of broad spectrum SPF30+ sunscreens. It is important to remember that using sunscreens does not avoid the need for physical protection.
Melanomas often appear as a new spot. Or they may appear as an existing spot, freckle or mole that has changed. The change could be in colour, shape or size and they often have an unusual shape or colour or a variety of colours. Sometimes melanomas may be itchy or may bleed. Some may become raised quickly and catch on clothing.
Nodular melanomas are a type that grow rapidly and need to be removed urgently. They are most often found on the head and neck and in older people, particularly men.
People at Higher Risk for Melanoma
Factors that make a person at higher risk for melanoma are:
• fair skin and history of sunburn
• a personal history of melanoma in a first degree relative
• a large number of moles on your skin
• typical, funny looking moles on your skin
• a personal history of previous non-melanoma skin cancer.
If you are at a higher risk for melanoma you should discuss with your doctor a plan for regular clinical skin checks.




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