Australia has one of the highest rates of melanoma skin cancer reported worldwide. Although less common than non-Melanoma skin cancers, Melanomas are regarded as dangerous due to a higher risk of mortality.
In Australia over 14,000 people per year are diagnosed with melanoma, with greater than 1000 people dying annually from the disease.
Most melanoma cancers start in the top layer of skin, before growing deeper at which time can spread to local and distant tissues through the blood or lymphatic system. For patients with melanoma detected only in the top layer of the skin, the cure rate approaches 100%, hence the importance placed on early detection and treatment.
The first sign of melanoma is often the development of an unusual appearing freckle or mole, but signs can often be subtle in the earliest stages. It is rare for a melanoma to bleed or ulcerate in the early stages, and the majority of lesions are asymptomatic. For a new or changing mole, examination by an experienced dermatologist should be considered.
Treatment of melanoma usually involves excision of the melanoma and a surrounding area of normal tissue. It is this requirement for a “safety margin” of healthy tissue that often results in a second excision being required.