Every year in Australia skin cancers account for 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers. The incidence of skin cancer in Australia is one of the highest in the world (2 to 3 times more than in Canada, the US and the UK).
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. If not detected and treated early, it can spread rapidly to other organs in the body. Australia and New Zealand have the world’s highest incidence rate of melanoma
Melanoma March is a fundraising campaign to help spread awareness about melanoma and raise funds to help those directly affected by it. The fundraising event is usually in the form of a ‘march’ in March each year.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is the third most common cancer diagnosed in Australia and usually occurs on parts of the body that have been overexposed to the sun. Some rare melanomas can occur inside the eye or in parts of the skin that have never been exposed to the sun. It is more commonly diagnosed in men than women and the risk of being diagnosed by age 85 is 1 in 13 for men compared to 1 in 22 for women.
What are the causes of Melanoma?
With Australia having one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, anyone can be at risk and the risk increases as you get older. The majority of skin cancers in Australia are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, this includes sunburn, tanning and solariums.
The risk is increased for those who have:
- Unprotected sun exposure
- A history of childhood tanning and sunburn
- Increased numbers of unusual moles
- A depressed immune system
- A family history of melanoma in parents, siblings or offspring
- Fair skin, freckles, light hair colour
- Had a melanoma previously or another form of skin cancer
What are the symptoms of Melanoma?
It is normal for new moles and spots to appear and change during childhood, adolescence and pregnancy. Adults who develop new spots or moles should have them examined by their doctor. Generally, the first sign is a change in an existing mole or a new spot on the skin. Changes can include:
- A mole may change in colour or shading of colour or become blotchy
- A mole appears to get bigger
- The shape of a mole may become irregular or raise in height
- A mole may develop a raised area
- A mole may become itchy or start to bleed
How do I protect myself from Melanoma?
Protect Your Skin! When the UV level is 3 or above, it is recommended that a combination of sun protection measures is implemented. The middle of the day is usually when the UV levels are more intense.
Slip, Slop, Slap! on:
- Sun protective clothing that covers as much of the skin as possible
- SPF30+ sunscreen with broad spectrum and water resistance. Apply prior to going outdoors and reapply every 2 hours
- Wear a hat that protects the face, head, neck and ears
- Seek shade at every opportunity
- Wear Australian standard sunglasses
Handy tips to spot signs of Melanoma
Most moles, spots and growths on the skin are harmless, however identifying melanoma at an early stage is crucial as early detection can greatly increase the chance of cure. Know your skin and look for anything new, changing or unusual.
Two rules that may help are The ABCDEs of Melanoma and The Ugly Duckling.
The ABCDEs of Melanoma
is a guide to help recognise melanoma warning signs.
– Asymmetry – Most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves don’t match
– Border – A mole that has blurry and/or jagged edges
– Colour – A mole that has more than one colour. Multiple colours are a warning sign.
– Diameter – Moles with a diameter larger than 6mm
– Evolution – A mole that has gone through sudden changes in size, shape or colour
The Ugly Duckling Sign
is based on the concept that most normal moles resemble each other. The method behind the Ugly Duckling Sign is to compare your moles with each other. If any standout or look different from surrounding moles, it is the Ugly Duckling.
Check yourself regularly no matter what your risk. Examine your skin head to toe once a month. Take note of moles or lesions that grow or change. remember, early detection is crucial. You may also visit your GP or Dermatologist annually for a professional skin exam.
Follow your instincts and see your GP if you see a spot or mole that ‘doesn’t seem right’
More information can be found at:
You can also access more information from your state or territory health department at