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  • Signs it's time for a skin check this Melanoma Monday

You know the drill, a skin check every year is crucial to early detection of the rarest yet deadliest form of skin cancer- melanoma. Not to mention the other various degrees of skin cancer that are equally important to identify.

Hold onto your hat because you may not know that Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of invasive melanoma skin cancer in the world! In 2005, Australia peaked at a rate of 49 cases per 100,000 people, and have slowly declined, with experts predicting Australia will be at 41 cases per 100,000 by 2031. Which still means we have a long way to go at beating the numbers. 

map identifying melanoma risk rates

This Melanoma Monday, we are running you through signs of melanoma and how to self-identify them outside of your annual skin check with your GP.

The aim of Melanoma Monday is to raise awareness about melanoma as a part of Melanoma Awareness Month. Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer in which cells within moles on the skin becoming malignant (cancerous) and can spread rapidly to other areas of the body if left untreated.

To help spread awareness and make the melanoma warning signs memorable, the signs of a possible malignant mole can be abbreviated to the mnemonic: ABCDE

Asymmetry: Do both halves of the lesion look the same? Melanoma lesions can appear asymmetric, whereas healthy moles are typically symmetrical.

Border: Irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined edges may be melanoma. Normal moles have nice, sharp, regular borders.

Colour: Melanomas tend to be multi-coloured—black, brown, red, and/or blue. Healthy moles are typically one colour or maybe two, but that colour is evenly distributed. This isn’t so for a potentially dangerous mole.

Diameter: If a mole is greater than 6 millimetres in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser), get it checked out. 

Evolving: Regular moles don't typically grow or change much, especially later in adulthood. If you notice a spot that is changing in any way—size, shape, colour, borders, texture—or if the spot itches or bleeds, see a doctor.

Although you may notice one or more skin changes, it does not necessarily mean that you have skin cancer, however it is important that you visit your GP to have them investigated further. Your GP can discuss your skin cancer risk and advise you on your need for medical checks or self-examination.

It can be difficult to know whether something on your skin is a harmless mole or normal sun damage, or a sign of cancer. When in doubt, speak to your GP. 

Remember, regular and effective use of sunscreen, covering up when in the sun, wearing sunglasses and a protective hat are the safest way to protect yourself from skin cancer.