Malignant Melanoma is a type of skin cancer, which is life-threatening. Melanoma can start from either within a mole or freckle or from normal looking skin, which then starts to grow larger and change in appearance.
Melanomas can occur anywhere on the body, not only in areas that get a lot of sun. The most common site in men is the back (around 40% of melanomas), and the most common site in women is the leg (around 40%).
Although Melanoma usually starts as a skin lesion, it can also grow on mucous membranes such as the lips or genitals. Occasionally it occurs in other parts of the body such as the eye, brain, vagina, mouth and nails.
The main risk factors for developing Melanoma include:
- Sun exposure, particularly in childhood
- Fair skin that burns easily
- Blistering sunburn, especially when young
- Atypical Moles (unusual looking Moles)
- Lots of Moles
- Previous personal Melanoma
- Previous non-Melanoma skin cancer (Basal & Squamous Cell Carcinoma)
- Family history of Melanoma, especially if members are affected
- Use of Sunbeds
- Outdoor lifestyle or worklife
- Living in Australia or New Zealand
Changes to Watch For
The first sign of a melanoma is usually a change in a mole or a new mole. It may have an unusual shape. A melanoma may be detected at an early stage when it is only a few millimetres in diameter, but they may grow to several millimetres.
The mole may have a variety of colours including, brown, black, blue, red and occasionally light grey. Some Melanomas can be itchy, tender or may bleed easily and crust over.
A mole should be checked as a precaution if it has any of the characteristics described below. However, not all such lesions prove to be melanoma and not all melanomas show these characteristics.