65% of melanoma occur in an identifiable 15% of the population who are deemed to be at increased risk.
The known high risk factors are:
The prevention of the majority of melanoma’s is unbelievably simple. Slip. Slop. Slap. Seek. Slide.
By simply staying out of the sun when the UV radiation is at its highest – 11am to 3pm – applying 30+ sunscreen, wearing a hat, sunglasses and shirt and staying in the shade wherever possible.
Once a lesion has been identified as a possible melanoma it is removed and tested, or a biopsy of the area is taken, to determine if it is, in fact, melanoma and if so, how deep the diseased cells have spread through the layers of skin (epidermis or dermis). The results of this pathology dictates whether further surgical excision of the site is required and whether further tests are necessary to determine if other areas of the body have been affected.
Most melanoma’s that are detected early are curable through wider excision of the cells surrounding the melanoma. Our most important measure, however, is prevention by minimising risk factors, regular skin surveillance (quarterly, 1st day of every season) for all - and closer surveillance of the high risk groups. Spread to regional lymph nodes will involve more radical surgery but is still associated with a good prospect of cure particularly if involvement is still microscopic.
Not necessarily. Most melanoma if diagnosed early and adequate surgery is performed will result in a cure. Some melanomas behave more aggressively either due to the biological properties of the cancer or as a result of late diagnosis. Additional treatment with radiotherapy, chemotherapy or immunotherapy has a small but very important role in management. Unfortunately melanoma still remains the most common form of cancer death in men and women under the age of 30 and men over the age of 50.