Melanoma 

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer which are mostly caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation, from the sun or tanning beds and sunburn. Malenoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK with around 13,500 new cases being diagnosed each year.

Melanoma develop from cells called melanocytes, found in the outer layer of our skin. Melanocytes produce melanin, a pigment that helps to protect the deeper layers of our skin from the harmful effects of the sun. This pigment appears as a suntan, which is a sign of damaged skin and a possible skin cancer warning sign.

Melanomas often start in moles, but they can also develop elsewhere on the skin. In rare cases, melanomas can occur in the eye, under the fingernails or in other parts of the body not usually exposed to the sun. Melanomas can multiply rapidly and spread to other organs in the body.

Those who have a higher risk of developing melanoma usually have one or more of the following factors: a history of childhood sunburn, prolonged exposure to UV rays, fair skin, outdoor-related work and hobbies, multiple atypical moles, a previous history of skin cancer or melanoma, a family history of skin cancer or melanoma or a history of immunosuppression.

Early diagnosis is crucial in all types of skin cancer. A person with a thin melanoma less than 0.75mm thick can expect to have a 95% five year survival but with a thicker melanoma greater than 4mm thick, this falls to as low as 25%.

New moles appearing and the change in existing moles are the most common signs of melanoma, meaning it is imperative to check moles regularly.

Use the The ABCDE rule to monitor moles:

  • A – Asymmetry. Where one half of the mole does not match the other
  • B – Border. Check the outline of your mole – a melanoma may have edges that are ragged, notched, blurred or irregular, plus the pigment may have spread into surrounding skin.
  • C - Colour. Is the colour uneven? You might see shades of black, brown and tan, or areas of white grey, red, pink or blue
  • D - Diameter. Do you see a change in the size of your mole? Has it increased? Typically, melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter – (same size as the end of a pencil)
  • E – Evolving. – Does the mole look different from the others and / or is changing in size, colour or shape?

Also remember that a melanoma does not always fit the ABCDE rule, if you notice anything different, or if there is a new skin lesion, if it itches, bleeds or if you are worried about it, seek medical help.

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