What is Melanoma?
- Melanoma is a cancer of the melanocytes, the cells that provide skin with its brown colour.
- Melanoma can be cured when detected & treated early.
- Melanoma may occur on any part of the body even on the soles of the feet. Melanocytes in the eye, nervous system and mucous membranes (eg lining of the mouth and nasal passages) can also become cancerous.
- A Melanoma may start growing in a spot you already have on your skin – but more than 50% will develop as a new spot.
- The most common area for a Melanoma to occur on a male is the back and in females, the legs.
- Melanoma grows quickly. If it is not treated, it may spread to deeper layers of skin, then to other parts of the body via the blood or lymph glands.
- Types of skin cancer
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
- Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer because it behaves like an internal cancer.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC),
- Superficial spreading melanoma: is the most common type and initially spreads outwards in the top layer of the skin (the epidermis). This type becomes dangerous when it invades downward into the lower layer of the skin (the dermis).
- Nodular melanoma: often very dark brownish black or black in colour but can be pink or red. It forms a raised lump on the surface of the skin as it invades directly into the deeper layers of the skin without there being any lateral growth.
- Acral lentiginous melanoma: most commonly found on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet or under the nails. This type is more common in people with darker skin.
- Lentigo maligna melanoma: (also known as Hutchinson’s melanotic freckle) appears in areas of skin that get a lot of sun exposure, such as the face and upper body. It may grow slowly and superficially over many years, later forming lumps as it grows deeper into the skin.
- In NSW in 2001 there were 2,959 new cases of melanoma of the skin (1,727 male, 1,232 female). This was 10.7% of all cancers in males and 9% in females. 421 of these cases resulted in death.