Skin Cancer Awareness
Melanoma occurs when the pigment cells in the skin turn into cancerous cells. It usually occurs in the skin, in both new and old moles. In rare cases, it may occur in mucous membranes, lymph nodes, eyes and under nails.
Melanoma is the most prevalent form of cancer. In 2018, 2325 Norwegians got this form of cancer. In 2017, 117 women and 190 men in Norway died of melanoma. The main lifestyle risk factor for developing skin cancer, including melanoma, is unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiation. It is believed that 5-10% of melanomas are due to inheritance.
There are a number of risk factors for developing melanoma that have been identified, these include:
- Frequent sunburns/sun exposure
- Multiple naevi/moles (over 50) or large congenital moles
- Personal or family history of melanoma or other skin cancer.
- Having fair skin that easily burns, freckles and red hair.
- Those who are immunosuppressed
- Congenital genetic defect
Symptoms of melanoma
Changes in the size, shape or color of a mole are often the first warning signs of melanoma. The “ABCDE” rule is helpful in remembering the warning signs of melanoma:
- Asymmetry: A lesion that has an irregular shape or pattern is more likely to be a melanoma.
- Border: The border of a melanoma is usually irregular.
- Color: Variation of color within the lesion is an important sign.
- Diameter: Most melanomas are greater than 6mm when first diagnosed.
- Evolving: Lesions that evolve (i.e. change in shape, size, surface, color or symptoms such as itch and bleeding) over time are more likely to be a melanoma.
Treatment and follow-up
If your doctor has concern about a lesion, they will do a skin biopsy, where they will be removing the lesion and sending it for histopathology examination. Excision (removal) of the lesion is the standard treatment for melanoma. Other necessary treatment is depending on the stage of the melanoma.
More people make a full recovery after treatment today than before. There are about 2000 new cases of melanoma in Norway each year. Of these cases, between 8-9 out of 10 get healthy. Early diagnosis and treatment gives good prognosis.
Prevention of melanoma
- Minimize sun exposure and avoid sunburn; take breaks from the sun, wear clothing, sunhat and sunglasses.
- Protective, natural pigmentation should be achieved gradually without burning.
- Remember, sunscreen can give false protection; use sunscreen with at least factor 30 and repeat the sunscreen during the day.
- Avoid the use of solariums.
- Children should not be sunburned.
If you have a suspicious mole or other unnatural skin change it is important that you contact your GP/general practitioner or Aker Care.